Waste is not waste when it is turned into nutritious compost for plants. The ‘need of the hour’ demands that we reduce the waste sent to landfills. All food scraps and garden debris can be very successfully composted into a rich, dark soil with just a little bit of effort and some know-how.
There are three basic types of composting:
Aerobic ( with air)
Microorganisms responsible for composting receive oxygen and composting is accelerated. This form of composting is the best and quickest. All types of organic waste can be used.
Anaerobic ( without air)
In this type of composting the kitchen and garden waste is placed in an airtight container without holes. This type of composting is the easiest to do, but takes longer to produce compost and is more prone to having pathogens (disease causing microorganisms).
In this type of composting, worms such as the red wriggler (Eisenia Fetida) are introduced to the decomposing material. These feed on organic matter and produce waste from their bodies (castings). These castings make a compost that is rich in nitrogen, phosphate and potassium. However, not all types of food waste can be used, and temperature, moisture and light need more strict control.
All food scraps and garden trimmings are referred to as green or wet waste and release moisture as they decompose. They add nitrogen to the compost. Cutting wet waste scraps into very small pieces will allow composting to occur more quickly.
The second type of waste is known as brown or dry waste. This is added to soak up the moisture and also to allow water and air to flow through the composting matter. Some good sources of dry or brown matter are dried leaves, hay, straw, sawdust and shredded newspaper. This type of waste is rich in carbon.
A larger quantity of dry waste as opposed to wet waste is required for more successful composting. Usually 2 – 4 times more dry waste is sufficient. Too much moisture in the compost pile or bin will result in bad odours. When enough dry matter is added then there will be no bad odour. Frequent mixing of the compost heap will aerate the pile and speed up the composting process. The rate of decomposition is also affected by the temperature. Composting occurs more quickly during warm weather and slows in cold weather.
There are many composting containers available on the market which suit the needs of those that have no outdoor space available, to those who have large outdoor gardens. So whatever kind of space you have, be it indoors, small balcony, verandah, terrace or ground garden, you can find a composting solution appropriate for you.
There are a range of composting buckets that can be used indoors. They come with good instructions and a starter compost. Kitchen and plant waste is simply added to the bucket along with the starter.
Again, there are many types of bins for the outdoors, from small ones, to large ones on stands whose contents can be turned using the rotating handle. These types can accommodate all types of wet waste and produce compost more quickly.
It’s also possible to make your own compost bin. Simply drill small holes in the bottom and sides of a plastic drum or bucket. Add a layer of brown matter at the bottom and fill with wet and dry waste.
Another very easy and economical way to compost in a small space is lasagna composting in a plastic container or terracotta pot or matka. This is a great way to get children involved in the process of composting. It is also ideal for those who don’t have the time to keep mixing the contents of a compost bin. For this method, add broken pieces of clay ( terracotta) to the bottom of the container. Next add a layer of brown matter followed by a layer of wet waste. Add a very fine layer of compost, soil or gobar khad to the top of this layer. These three layers form the lasagna and are repeated until the container is about ¾ full. Add a final layer of dry waste, cover with a green net and leave in a sheltered position on your balcony, verandah, terrace or garden. In 3 – 5 months you will have a rich, brown compost.
If you are lucky enough to have a large area for your garden, then simply dig a pit and fill with all your food and garden matter. Maintaining a top cover of dry matter will help keep rodents and insects at bay. This way of composting takes a little longer as the quantities are larger. Mixing the pile will help speed up the processes.
To save our environment, the need is to give back to Mother Earth that which we have taken and composting offers us the way to do this; changing our kitchen and garden waste to a black gold that can be enjoyed by our plants.