Composting uses waste like food scraps and newspaper to make a mixture, called compost. Compost is rich in nutrients and beneficial organisms that fertilize other plants. You can put it in potting mix for house plants to help them grow or use it as mulch to boost your garden harvest. There are a few different ways to compost and turn your trash into a plants' treasure!
Not everything is compostable. Some materials won't breakdown in a compost bin, like plastic, metal, and glass. These materials should always go in the recycle bin or reused at home.
Other items that are compostable might have unintended effects. Meat, fish, dairy, and bones can attract animals and pests to your bin. Fat and oil will coat your compostables and slow the composting process.
One thing you'll hear in the composting community is the browns and the greens. This refers to the two main types of compostables that are important for bin composting.
The browns include cardboard, paper towels, egg cartons, dry leaves, wood chips, and dry grass. These are carbon rich materials used to add bulk, allow air flow, and feed the organisms that break down the pile.
The greens are fresher plants like grass clippings, vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, and green leaves. They bring nutrients to your pile and aid in the heating process.
The simplest method of composting uses a large bin. They're made from old garbage cans and can be purchased through the City of Phoenix for $5.
You can also make your own using a plastic bin that’s at least 18 gallons and has a lid.
Drill small holes 2 inches apart on all sides of the container for air ventilation.
Make a second bin and place the first inside of it to collect any leaked liquids. These liquids can fertilize plants as well.
Start layering in your compost and give it a daily shake to help things move along.
This method will provide finished compost in about 3 months. Check out this guide by the city of Phoenix for more info!
Worm composting is similar to bin composting but contains worms. The worms consume the compost scraps, which become compost as they pass through the worm. This is a good option for people with limited space to compost outside. It can also produce compost much faster than the previous method.
You can buy a worm composting bin online. Or, make your own using a tall 18-gallon tub and a shallow bin to catch excess liquid.
Drill four 1/8“ holes on the bottom corners of the large bin & two on opposite sides near the top.
Cover each hole with vinyl screening and place the large bin inside the shallow one.
Mix together shredded paper and soil, then dampen everything with some water. Place this mixture at the bottom of the large bin.
Add in one pound of red wriggler worms or earth worms. Give the worms a day to settle in.
Start adding in your food scraps on a weekly basis.
When the bin is getting full with compost, place food scraps on only one side of the bin. Once the worms have travelled to that side, harvest your compost from the other side.
Compost through this process will complete in about two weeks.
A composting tumbler is a large raised bin that can is fully enclosed and rotates. By turning the tumbler a few times a week, the organic materials mix and receive proper aeration.
It'd be very difficult to make your own, but tumblers are available for purchase online or in-hardware stores.
If you don't need fertilizer, consider using services from Recycled City. They'll provide you with a composting container and will swap it out on a regular basis. They offer weekly, biweekly, or monthly services.
This allows you to your reduce waste without having excess compost laying around. You can choose from any of their service plans or even try a free trial.
Compost drop-off is a good option for those who don't need or can't compost at home but want to help. Many local farmers or community gardens have a composting program. All you have to do is drop-off food scraps and compostable materials!
Check out Share Waste to find a drop-off spot.
Add your compost in layers. Alternate between layers of greens and browns to allow aeration and speed the composting.
Aim for a ratio of three parts browns to one part greens. If you notice your pile isn’t heating up, it needs more greens. If you find that the pile is starting to smell, add some browns.
Another important thing to keep in mind, especially when bin composting, is to mix often. If you have a smaller bin that you are able to pick up and shake, this will be much easier.
If your compost pile is too large, you can mix up the compost by using a shovel or pitchfork to stir things around. This process allows more air flow which will help it develop faster. Tumblers have made this process very easy!
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Edited by: H.K. Soto