Sustainable Living - An Introduction To Composting
Material that has gone through the composting process ends up producing a
wonderfully rich material that is filled with minerals and nutrients that are well suited to encouraging lush and
healthy growth of new plants, as well as overall soil health and sustainability ...
An Introduction To Composting
There is a great deal of organic waste that can be used to make compost. Small twigs, leaves,
hedge and grass clippings, and other organic materials, including some kitchen waste, can all be used in
composting, which is a very effective form of recycling. Material that has
gone through the composting process ends up producing a wonderfully rich material that is filled with minerals
and nutrients that are well suited to encouraging lush and healthy growth of new plants, as well as overall soil
health and sustainability.
Just about any type of organic matter will eventually decompose given enough time and the right conditions. But,
even with that said, you don't want to throw any old organic materials on your compost heap. Some items are not
recommended to be thrown into your compost pile. Meats, dairy foods, pet faeces, cooked foods and kitchen grease
will end up attracting disease or pests and vermin, so these should not be used in your home composting
Good compost should include a mix of brown organic material and green organic material. The brown materials provide
carbon for the mixture, while the green materials bring in supplies of required nitrogen. The brown organic matter
includes dead leaves, twigs, cardboard, paper and manure. The green material will consist of items such as grass
clippings, hedge trimmings, coffee grounds, fruit rinds and vegetable waste. As much as possible, it is best to try
to maintain a one to one ratio of brown material to green material to arrive at the best final compost.
The composting process involves four separate components that are needed to create a mixture that will deliver the
sought-after benefits. These four vital components are organic matter (addressed above), correct moisture,
sufficient oxygen and bacteria.
Proper moisture levels are important to a successful composting process. It is said that the compost pile should
have around the same amount of moisture as a sponge that has been wrung out by hand. If the compost pile is too
dry, then the decomposition slows down. You can simply add some water to the pile during dry weather periods or any
time when a lot of brown material has been added to help keep the process moving along.
Should the compost become too wet, simply dig in and turn the pile to mix the materials and spread the moisture.
You can also add some brown organic materials that are very dry to help balance things out.
Sufficient oxygen is also a key element that is necessary for decomposition. Oxygen supports the breakdown of the
organic materials by the bacteria. Supplying oxygen to the compost heap is as simple as turning the compost so the
materials at the outer edges of the pile are moved to the center. This also helps to control odors that can
develop. The pile should be turned about every 2 weeks for best results.
It is the bacteria, and other types of microorganisms, that do the real work involved in the composting process.
With the other needed elements in place, the bacteria can go to work breaking down the organic ingredients into the
compost that will benefit the organic garden.
When the compost cycle has turned the organic waste matter into a muck that is rich
in nutrients, you will be able to easily add it to your garden soil. While preparing your soil for a spring
planting, simply cover the ground with about 3-4 inches of the compost and then till the soil to mix it in well.
In very little time you will begin to see a healthy and vibrant garden.
There are a number of different types of composters on the market to meet a number of needs and situations. Bins
for composting can be built from materials that you already have around the backyard, or they can be purchased from
garden supply stores, especially those that cater specially to organic gardening.
The benefits of composting have been extensively studied. The results reveal physical, chemical, biological, and
The benefits of composting have been extensively studied. The results show physical, chemical,
biological, and environmental benefits.
Dummies - Want to use ordinary waste to create an
extraordinary garden? Composting lets you turn household food
waste, yard clippings, and more into free compost and mulch
that's chock-full of nutrients. From building and working
with traditional compost bins to starting an indoor
worm-composting operation, Composting For Dummies makes these
often intimidating projects easy, fun, and accessible for
Building up sustainable soil for organic gardening starts right after the garden soil testing
has been completed. The testing of the soil helps to identify the additional fertilizers and conditioners that can
be added. When attempting to garden organically, testing, maintaining and improving the soil is a constant process
and one that is well worth the effort, according to those who advocate organic farming and gardening.
Creating sustainable soil for gardening organically means that you have to be able to replenish
the topsoil of the garden. One of the best substances to have for keeping the soil rich and healthy enough for an
organic garden is a good supply of compost. In addition to compost, it is good to have enzymes, earthworms, and
beneficial microbes available to add into the soil mixture as well.
In many instances, once you have established your garden with good quality soil that can support
healthy, organic gardening, it can often be sustained with nothing more than home composting. This can be
accomplished simply by removing a layer of garden soil at the end of the season and layering it with a healthy
amount of your decomposed waste.
Backyard composting is a terrific way to improve your soil structure and also enhance moisture
retention. In the average compost heap there are billions of bacterial organisms that will grow, feed, reproduce
and die. Through this life-cycle of the microorganisms, the organic waste material that has been added to the
compost pile will be recycled into a robust organic fertilizer and effective soil conditioner.
Many people say that composting is truly the ultimate in recycling because it benefits the soil
in so many ways and supports organic farming and gardening in its highest and best sense. In addition to improving
the structure of the soil and the moisture retention ability of the soil, composting also provides excellent
aeration, full fertilization and nitrogen storage. Composting also creates a beneficial pH balance in the soil,
releases a stream of nutrients and supplies food for the beneficial microbial inhabitants in the earth.
Shredded alfalfa hay is one of the best types of material that you can add to your compost heap,
and some say it is "the" secret to a great compost recipe. Worms really thrive on alfalfa, making worm composting
even more effective and faster, and it provides excellent mulch and soil additive components for your soil.
When you are preparing the compost heap to be used in your organic gardening project, it is best
to build up the compost pile until it is about four feet in diameter and also approximately four feet height. It
should be situated on a spot with good drainage and the pile should be enclosed with chicken wire so that it has
good air circulation, but is still contained. After a period of three to four months it will be ready to mix in
with your soil.
Indoor Composting - Indoor Composter Kits
No Garden? Become A Bokashi Kitchen
I know I am very lucky. We have loads of outside space so can
set up huge compost heaps without it affecting how much space we have to garden or
entertain. But lots of folks have smaller outside spaces to work with. And, much as
they may like to be a garden composter, they struggle to find the room. I know
actually using the garden is likely to take priority over recycling garden waste.
So what do you do? You don't have to decide between composting waste and having
room for the kids to play!
There are several options. Firstly go for a small purpose build
garden composter like the beehive compost bins I'm such a fan of (purely for
aesthetic reasons I admit). But, if even that size compost bin is not practical
have you thought about inside compost solutions?
There are lots of worm-composting systems which it is reported
can be used indoors. Now I have a bit of a thing about worms. And, as much as I see
them as beneficial in the garden I have no desire to get up close and personal with
a bucket load of the critters in my kitchen. Maybe you are less squeamish than I,
in which case vermiculture, or worm composting is a serious possibility.
If however, you don't want to invite any more life forms into
your kitchen perhaps you should take a look into the kitchen composter. I was
amazed by these products. Having never been in the market for a kitchen composter I
didn't really know a lot about them. But, more recently as my love of compost
generally, and a desire to find out more widely about the subject has led me to
research composting solutions more widely, I have to say I'm completely
The kitchen composter doesn't have to sit indoors but its so
small that is where it is ideally suited to be. The only issue I have with the
whole process is that it really isn't a kitchen composter at all. It is in fact a
kitchen waste fermentation system, which I think sounds much more exciting and
techie! I know most people would be horrified about having kitchen waste fermenting
indoors for weeks on end but every review of these has confirmed you don't get any
odours from the kitchen composters. But then they are sealed to keep out air and
ensure anaerobic fermentation.
What is a Bokashi Kitchen Composter?
A Bokashi Kitchen Composter is a bucket with a really well
fitting lid. At the bottom of the bucket is a drainage tap so you can drain off any
excess moisture which is created during fermentation.
Commercial products are pretty cheap but you could make yourself
one by looking out for cheap, quality buckets with lids and adding one of those
cheap plastic water barrel taps.
Bokashi is Japanese for 'fermented organic matter'. That's what
you end up with in your kitchen composter bucket.
Using a Bokashi Kitchen Composter
Using the Bokashi composter system is really straightforward.
The whole idea of this kitchen composting system is that, you introduce helpful
microbes, yeasts and so on to the kitchen waste. The simplest method is to buy
Bokashi starter which will be sawdust, wheat or rice hulls innoculated with all the
good yeasts and bacteria you want to work on your kitchen waste.
First you put a layer of the bokashi starter in the kitchen
composter bucket. Now add a layer of kitchen waste and sprinkle over some more of
the starter. You continue using the kitchen composter in this way till full.
Ideally you would save all the kitchen scraps through the day and only put them
into the pail once a day. That way you don't keep opening the lid too often, which
would expose the fermenting waste to the air. Also it means you layer the food
waste and bokashi starter correctly.
Once the kitchen composter is full you seal and leave it alone
for a fortnight. At the end of that time the kitchen waste will be fermented and
pickled. It's quite odd because it doesn't look like compost at all. The physical
appearance of the waste will be little changed, just a little pickled looking! But
the waste is fermenting, and breaking down and will be full of the organisms to
continue this process rapidly.
Once the kitchen composter has sat, sealed and full for a
fortnight its time to empty the contents. Simply dig them into your garden soil (or
indeed garden pots). Don't worry you won't need to dig huge holes every fortnight.
Simply sprinkle the contents of the bokashi bin in a thin layer and cover with
soil. After a month the area is ready for planting. The fermented kitchen waste
will be broken down and the soil much enriched.
What is the Tap For?
As your kitchen waste ferments it is likely to produce liquid
(think making sauerkraut, lots of cabbage becomes not so much cabbage and lots of
cabbage juice). And, if you're adding tea bags and coffee grounds, or other wet
food items to the bin, you'll end up with even more bokashi juice.
The tap, is so you can drain off the bokashi juice and either
use it as a liquid plant feed, or tip it down the drain where its acidity will help
it clean the pipes. If you have a septic system, the bokashi juice is said to be
even more beneficial because you're sending all the good bacteria that like to
break up waste, into your septic tank.
What Kitchen Waste to Put in the Kitchen
This is the most exciting bit. Lots of garden composters
advocate only putting certain types of kitchen waste on a standard garden compost
pile. The thinking is that if you put certain items (such as cooked food or meat)
on the compost heap you will attract vermin. Now, this isn't the post to argue this
particular point. Though I do feel very strongly that all organic kitchen waste
should go on the compost heap and that the heap should just be made vermin proof.
Otherwise I feel we're wasting the opportunity and goodness of recycling all our
I digress (I feel an altogether different blog post coming!).
The point is, because the bokashi kitchen composter is a sealed unit, and that you
introduce all the good micro-organisms in to make sure the waste is broken down
quickly, you can put any organic waste in.
That's great news. If you are using a Kitchen Composting System
like Bokashi, you can put raw, cooked and processed foods of any kind in. Dairy,
fish, meat, coffee grounds, tea bags, paper and tissues all go into your kitchen
composter bucket. That makes a real difference to the amount of waste you'll send
Where to Bury the Bokashi Bucket Compost?
This is the biggest issue with bokashi new users. No one really
wants to be digging holes every fortnight. If you have a well stocked vegetable
garden or flower borders one method is to simply uncover shallow trenches between
your plants and tip the contents of the bokashi bucket there and top with soil. The
plants will all send their roots towards all this new goodness.
The second, lazier option is to hide a bottomless bucket in the
garden. Simply empty the bokashi bucket into the bottomless bucket and sprinkle
over some soil. One month later remove the bottomless bucket to uncover a bucket
shaped pile of broken down humus. This sounds like a real winner to me!
Would I Become a Bokashi Kitchen Composter?
Definitely, if I had less space and if I didn't already put ALL
my kitchen waste (even the fish, meat, bones and dairy) on my outdoors compost
bins. If we had problems with vermin I would consider the bokashi system,
regardless of our space as a way of recycling the kitchen waste safely. But in that
case I would just bung the contents of the bokashi bucket onto my compost heaps
rather than bury them.
But would I buy a Bokashi Kitchen Composter? Honest answer is
I'm not sure. They're not all that expensive but I think I might get creative with
a cheaper plastic bucket instead. Even the bokashi starter can be made yourself,
though I'm really not sure that would be worth the hassle.
But, for those with no garden, or a lack of space for a
vermin-proof compost heap I defintiely think the bokashi kitchen composter route is
a fabulous option.
The first time I heard the word 'bokashi' was during a visit to a farming consultant, back in
So this man just visited Japan, and introduced us to 'bokashi' compost and a liquid booster he called 'BMO -
beneficial microorganisms'. A better solution to a consistent supply of nutrient using compost, rather than
depending on agrochemical fertilizer alone. He share with us this recipes on how to make a good batch of
Based on my own experience, I made some modification to accelerates composting for this formula. I made
composts using the original recipes a few times, they are too slow, they do not produce enough heat. I get the
same feedback from blog visitors, so it really need some twist.
Here is the improved version, the raw materials are:
1. 100ml of EM1
2. 100mg of molasses/brown sugar
3. 5kg of fine rice bran
4. 1 gunny of chicken dung
5. 1 gunny of rice husks
6. 60L of water
#1: Mix thoroughly rice bran, rice husks and chicken dropping. Use the shovel, you could blend it like
#2: Mix molasses, water and EM1 in a container. Stir well.
#3: Spray the liquid mixture on top of the solid materials that we mixed earlier. Mixed evenly.
#4: Do a simple test. Pick a handful of it, squeeze it gently. Roll it into a ball and put it on the floor.
If the ball breaks then your compost is too dry, add water. If you can squeeze some water out of it, then its
too moist, add more rice husks. The best moisture content is 60%, that is when the ball can retain it shapes on
the floor without too much water content. Just nice.
#5. Once you're done, cover the top with gunnies/plastic covers to shelter it from the rain. the compost
will heat up quickly this way.
#6. Mixed the compost thoroughly every two or three days for a week.
#7. Mixed it once every 4 days for second week. The compost is ready after 10-14days.
After 14 days, your compost is ready for application. How do you know its ready? When the colour turns
darker, temperature drops and the stinking smell reduced greatly.
For step #5, either you can squeeze it to a ball or not depends on your size of raw materials. If you are
using goat dung, they wont become a ball, you got to refine them inside a grinding machine or manual shiver to
get refine powdery texture. Easier to blend with other materials. If you are using chicken waste or cow dung,
it is so much easier because they are more moist and manageable.
For troubleshooting compost which does not heat up after 2 days, add diluted molasses to speed up
composting. What is lacking here is not enough microbes or not enough source of energy, the molasses.
For a good tips, to watch maturation of compost, put 2 eggs inside the compost, break the first one in the
end of first week, and another one in the end of second week. The rising temperature can cook the eggs, so you
can monitor your compost in a simple way.
About the author: Melor M Daud is an organic fertilizer consultant. She shares
tips and guide on how to add value in organic fertilizer at her blog BOKASHI FARMER. Exclusively at
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