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7 steps to composting at home

7 steps to composting at home

Whether you have a large yard with sufficient space to manage your own compost heap or you want to start from scratch in a snug apartment, there’s a suitable solution that will ensure your soil reaps the rewards and you contribute to a greener planet, at the same time. Here we share with you 7 steps to composting at home. With this guide you can start your journey to better soil right on your own doorstep. 

Some key considerations before composting at home:

  • Keep it in a shady area
  • Keep it moist, not wet and never dry

Step 1 - Select your container

Think about the space you have and where is the best place to keep your compost heap. This will influence your container. In some instances, a cylinder or coiled wire mesh will do the job. Alternatively, you can use a compost bin. Another idea is a raised bed or open pile. The size of your container will also depend on the volume of soil you want to use the compost in. The key step in a container is to ensure good airflow. So make sure there are small gaps or holes all around it to ensure your heap receives sufficient airflow. This is vital in turning the piled up trash into an earthly treasure. 

Step 2 - Gather your tools 

You’ll need more than your green thumbs and gardening gloves for managing your compost heap. Choose your preferred tools for working through your compost heap as it develops. A spade or digging fork in a size that suits your compost size is advised. 

Step 3 - Use the best materials 

The quality of your compost will depend on the quality of your materials, so get your heap off on the right foot with the best quality materials. Use a mixture of wet and dry ones for the most favourable results. Organic materials contain an abundance of nitrogen - a contributing factor to the efficiency of decomposition. 

Nitrogen-rich materials

  1. Fruit scraps
  2. Uncooked vegetable leftovers
  3. Coffee grounds and paper filters
  4. Crushed Egg shells
  5. Tea bags 
  6. Algae

Carbon-rich materials

  1. Healthy plant material: dried leaves, matured flowers, stalks and twigs
  2. Shredded brown paper 
  3. Shredded cardboard 
  4. Egg boxes
  5. Untreated wood chips

Materials to keep away from your compost heap

  1. Meat or fish scraps (attracts rats)
  2. Dairy products
  3. Potato leaves (often contain diseases)
  4. Weeds that have gone to seed 
  5. Cooked kitchen scraps (this attracts vermin)
  6. Thick branches (unless shredded)
  7. Diseased or insect infested plants
  8. Plants or wood treated with pesticides or preservatives 
  9. Pet waste (although dog waste can be composted in a separate process)

Step 4 - Start layering your gathered materials 

Begin with a layer of browns such as twigs and wood chips, followed by a layer of your nitrogen-rich materials. Make a lasagne of the carbon-rich and nitrogen-rich materials. If needed, add a little water to dampen the pile. Make sure your food scraps are covered by a good layer of dry leaves or other browns.

Step 5 - Water your heap 

The key to top-notch compost lies in the materials selected, making sure it receives enough air and maintaining its moisture. You should water your heap every couple of days. In dry, hot regions you should water it twice a week. In a humid or wet region, you can water it once a week. This process, along with the airflow, will kick off the decomposition of all the star materials. A good compost heap stays moist. 

Bad odour may arise from a heap that is too wet or that needs more air circulation. 

If it is too wet, add more browns and if it’s too dry, add more greens to up the moisture. 

Step 6 - Maintain your heap 

Compost heaps require attention. Over the weeks of decomposition you’ll have to check on it. Use your chosen tool to turn your compost heap occasionally. This will aid in aerating your pile and speeding up the decomposition process.

As the materials decompose, a bacterial action takes place that forms the ultimate organic matter. One that is filled with nutrients that will certainly turn your soil from drab to fab, producing an abundant harvest and happier plants. 

Step 7 - Begin using your own compost

In 8 - 10 weeks, when your compost is brown and crumbly, it will be ready to start using. It should smell like a dewy forest floor. It shouldn’t have a rotting odour or intact food scraps. As you prepare garden beds or repot plants, work some of your treasured compost into your soil. The multitudinous benefits are well worth each and every step. The best part is it’s simple and easy, considering the materials are always at your disposal. 

The benefits of compost

  1. Compost brings life to your soil, by making it extremely fertile and conducive to cultivating happy and healthy plants. 
  2. By using your waste for the useful purpose of composting, you are being sustainable and participating in a circular economy.
  3. Compost makes soil friable - so that air, moisture, nutrients and roots can move freely through it.
  4. Another fantastic benefit of using compost is that the nutrients that are in the soil put the plant in a better position to ward off plant diseases.  
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