Want to do composting at home, but confused on how to start?
Can composting be done at home without spending a lot of your efforts and time?
In my previous article, we have discussed what is composting and why it is the best thing to do for our planet. Today, let’s discuss some of the ways to start composting at home.
4 Ways to do composting at home:
Incidentally, I am at Auroville today as I am writing out this piece. Situated near Pondicherry, is this entire community which proudly practices environmentally responsible living. It aims to demonstrate to its visitors that sustainable living is indeed practical.
As I am getting inspired by their go green practices, I also feel happy that I am no stranger to all this.
Here are the 4 ways to do composting at home spending less efforts and time.
Method #1 – DIY Aerobic composting:
Aerobic composting is one of the usual and popular methods of composting. We have already discussed the steps to start composting using this method.
Today, I am going to reveal my zero cost model for doing easy composting even in an apartment.
We first need to identify our compost bin. Here are the options I have explored so far.
- Paint buckets
In my opinion, large paint buckets make the most ideal DIY compost bins. They are strong, sturdy and come with a fitting lid. You can ask any painter acquaintances to get you a used bucket or buy from old scrap dealers.
To remove dried paint from the bucket, first let it dry completely. Then use any thin, sharp object such as a knife or a paint scraper to scrape the paint. It will come off in flakes. Take care not to scratch the bucket surface. Soak and wash the bucket multiple times with soapy water to remove any leftovers. Air out the bucket for a few days to remove the paint smell.
In my experience, adding crumpled newspapers and closing the bucket for a few days also helps remove odor.
- Buckets that have lost their prime in the bathroom
Buckets that have discolored or slightly broken can be promoted into compost bins.
Ensure that the buckets are in usable condition to tolerate the wear and tear caused by composting- mainly due to the weight and exposure to sun
- Old or broken plastic containers from the kitchen
This is pretty similar to the previous one. If they do not have a fitting lid, cardboard sheets can be used to cover them. You can top it up with a sheet of plastic when you expect heavy rains to drench the cardboard.
- Cardboard boxes
Thick large cardboard boxes- the kind that our TVs, ACs and other appliances come packaged in, can also be used as compost bin. They will last from 6 months to an year, after which they will start composting themselves.
There are a few conditions though. If kept in the open, these are not a good choice in rainy season. In rainy season, keep them in a place with a roof. You don’t want the bottom of the cardboard box to get drenched, causing the box to disintegrate. In case of minor rains, just covering the top of the cardboard box with a plastic cover will do the trick.
The advantage with using cardboard box is that they don’t need holes to be drilled in them. The material is breathable, hence there is no need for air holes.
- Gunny sacks
These cannot be used in the initial stages of composting, when the contents will tend to be soggy. Once the compost is half done or fully done, it will get relatively dry. Then you can transfer them to the gunny bag and start a new batch of compost in your plastic bin. I am talking here about the old style, breathable gunny sacks, not the plastic ones.
Also, turning the contents inside a gunny bag is no piece of cake. So I prefer these only for storing done compost until I am ready to use them in the garden.
Method to drill holes
As we learnt already, we are doing aerobic composting and hence we need to drill holes in the plastic bin to let in a continuous flow of air.
Drill a lot of holes in the sides and bottom, approximately 4 inches apart. You can use an electric drill to make the holes. You can also heat a discarded knife in the gas stove or lamp until it is very hot, then poke it on the bin to make a hole.
If the hole is too small, it may close itself eventually. If it is too large, it can let in small cockroaches and the likes. So keep the hole sizes medium. If you are going to keep the bin in open, avoid holes on the lid of the bin, as rain water can enter into it.
PVC pipes for air
Another popular way to introduce air into a bin is by inserting some old PVC pipes here and there with holes drilled in their sides. The top of the PVC pipes should be exposed to air. You can decide the exact implementation based on the setup.
Materials needed for composting
- Green materials
Every household has them in plenty – vegetables that rotted before you could use them, peels of fruits and vegetables, tea dust or tea bags, coffee grounds, used tamarind pulp, crushed egg shells, freshly cut grass, dried flowers from the pooja room, nails, hair etc.
- Brown materials
Dried leaves that naturally fall from trees are available in abundance wherever trees are. You can ask a neighbor to provide you the dried leaves instead of burning them or throwing them in trash.
I ask my house help to bring the dried leaves from her neighbor’s garden and she is more than happy that she can contribute to this good practice.
The cob in sweet corn, the shells of nuts also count as brown material (but no walnut shells, please).
Tear up your old cardboard boxes- the corrugated, brown colored ones. Soaking them in water before tearing makes the job easy. You can even used the paper type egg cartons and the cardboard in which ur tissue roll is wrapped. The tissue papers that you use for dusting or cleaning spills can also be added the compost bin.
Newspapers can be shredded and added as brown material, but keep them minimal if you are planning to grow eatables with the compost. This is because newspapers can contain toxic ink. You can very well add them if you will use the compost for flowering and ornamental plants.
Hay or straw can also be used as brown material.
Saw dust from untreated wood can be used in moderation.
Compost starter is the stuff you will add when you start a compost bin to introduce useful microorganisms. A generous handful of semi done or fully done compost can be a great starter.
Now, you do not have compost to begin with. In this case, a handful of soil can do the trick for you.
Wouldn’t it be great if your compost can get finished earlier than you expect? The trick is in using some natural compost accelerators.
Add a cup of buttermilk to your compost or even some fermented dosa batter. The natural microorganisms from these products will help speed up compost. Other options are human urine and fresh manure from herbivorous animals as they are rich in nitrogen and can speed up the compost.
Consider cutting your green and brown waste into smaller chunks before adding to the compost bin. This will greatly speed up composting as the microorganisms can now work on a decomposing a larger surface area.
Placement of compost bin
If you live in the ground floor and have access to soil, then the compost bin can be kept directly on the soil. The advantage is that the microorganisms will find your compost bin very easily.The leechate from the compost bin can directly go into the soil and nourish your plants.
Terrace is also a great place to keep your compost bin. Even better if there is a shade to protect your compost bin from excessive rain.
You can keep a compost bin with a well fitted lid right in your balcony. Make sure to keep a tray at the bottom to collect the leechate. Of course, you need to take some extra care to ensure that the compost bin is well maintained, so that it does not get smelly or attract insects. But this is no big deal once you get your composting basics right.
Method #2 – Composting using dailydump products
Are you not the DIY kind? Do you think finding a compost bin or dried leaves is a hassle? No big deal. Visit dailydump.org. They have some brilliant products that make composting easier. They also sell a remix powder that is delivered at your doorstep. This can be used instead of dried leaves and it eliminates the need for turning the pile.
Method #3 – Trench or pit composting
If you have access to ground or garden, ding a one feet deep hole in the soil where there are no plants around. The size you want to dig is upto you. Add green kitchen waste into it and add brown materials on top of it. Covering with brown materials ensures that rats are not attracted to it. Sprinkle some water.
You can optionally close it with a plank of wood if you are afraid someone might accidentally trip into it. Keep doing this until the hole is half full. Now cover it with the soil you dug back to level the ground. Keep sprinking some water on the spot once in a few days.
This method is slower and hence it can take an year for the composting to happen underground. After an year, you can directly grow plants on top of this rich soil.
Method #4 – Composting using just flower pots and soil
Choose a pot with drainage hole at the bottom. Layer it with some coconut husk at the bottom. This will decompose slowly and prevent too much liquid from draining out. Cover with a layer of soil. Add the kitchen waste for the day and cover with a layer of soil. Keep repeating this every day until the pot is full.
Turn the contents once in a while and add moisture if needed. Once the pot is full, start with the next pot.
In 3 months time, or when the fourth pot is getting filled, the first pot will be ready to use for planting.
There you go.
Whether you want to use the classic, optimal method 1 for composting, or you want to try out the easier methods is upto you.
No matter which method you choose, composting is certainly worth a try- as the song goes, “For you and for me and the entire human race”….
Do you compost at home? Please share with us your favorite methods of composting.