Discover all our tips and advice for making compost at home: from today, home composting will no longer have any secrets for you!
Reducing waste is a pressing need of our consumer society. The high costs associated with waste and the pollution produced by disposal and recovery operations require it.
Every year, the average citizen contributes to the separate collection with 80 kg of organic waste. These rise to 100 if we also consider biodegradable waste, such as wood, paper and textiles. This large amount of waste could be reduced if each of us turned the compost into natural fertilizer on its own, rather than sending it to separate collection.
An environmentally friendly choice, economically convenient. Which would also lead to less use of chemical fertilizers. But do you really know how to compost?
But first let’s make a small introduction to compost.
Compost: what it is and what types of compost are there
Compost is what remains after you start a home composting procedure. That is, the process of decomposition and humification on residues of organic substances, such as the leaves of your garden, the grass cut from the lawn, etc.
Depending on the composting method you have adopted, you will get a different type of compost but basically, they can be categorized into 3 types:
- fresh compost
- compost ready
- mature compost
The fresh compost (from 2 to 4 months in the case of composting with the pile) is still being transformed. Still rich in nutrients it is excellent as a fertilizer and for plant growth. However, be careful to apply it directly to the roots because this compost is still not very stable.
The ready-made compost (from 5 to 8 months), on the other hand, is stable, as the decomposition process no longer produces heat. On the other hand, it is less suitable for use as a fertilizer. We recommend using it in vegetable gardens or gardens as a fertilizer before sowing or transplanting.
Mature compost (12/18 or 24 months) is by far the most stable. Therefore, it is the least suitable as a fertilizer. However, it is perfect in direct contact with the roots or seeds and as a soil for potted plants or even in the case of re-sowing and thickening of lawns.
Now let’s see how to get it with a simple understanding and execution procedure.
How to compost: let’s start from here
We have said that by compost we mean the product of the decomposition, accelerated and controlled by man, of organic substances. Among these, kitchen scraps. Mainly vegetable remains, fruit peels, coffee and tea grounds, egg shells, ash from fireplaces etc.
But also, about gardening. For example, pruning branches, lawn mowing, dry leaves, withered flowers, garden waste.
Home composting can be achieved by purchasing special composting systems that are not excessively expensive. Those for internal use range from 50 to 100 euros, the others for external use from 200 to 300, being also equipped with temperature control and automatic mixing.
The advantages of compost
Home composting offers a number of advantages.
First of all, it guarantees the correct closure of the waste cycle, given that the workforce makes up about one third of the total household garbage. Do-it-yourself compost avoids being disposed of in landfills or incinerators, thus reducing disposal costs. At the end of the home composting procedure, then, we will have a natural organic fertilizer available.
This can be used in the vegetable garden, in the garden or for potted plants instead of chemical fertilizer pollutants. This will save money by limiting the purchase of soil, substrates and organic fertilizers. And at the same time, we will reduce the atmospheric pollution produced by the combustion of these waste, while also avoiding the infiltration of leachate into the soil.
Compost, as a natural organic fertilizer, gradually releases into the soil the essential elements for the development of plants, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and trace elements.
What can become compost and what cannot
Anyone wishing to proceed with home composting must first of all pay attention to what to put in the composter.
The kitchen and garden waste listed above, as well as other biodegradable materials, are fine. These include uncoated paper, cardboard, sawdust and shavings from untreated wood.
Attention, all glass, plastic and metal objects, synthetic fabrics, chemicals, expired drugs, coated paper and cat and dog litter must be avoided.
With great caution, leftover food of animal origin and food cooked in small quantities can also be added. Same warning for the leaves of plants resistant to degradation (magnolia, beech, chestnut, coniferous needles, etc.).
How to compost: composting in heaps
We now come to the various forms of composting. The most widespread is certainly the one in heap. Here we will have to choose places that are practicable all year round, that can be irrigated and that are in the shade of trees that lose their leaves in winter. In winter we must allow solar radiation, while in summer the sunlight must be mitigated. Placing chopped wood under the heap (10-15 cm) is another good practice to avoid the formation of mud in the winter months.
The minimum height of the heap must be 50-60 cm in order to retain heat and ensure microbial activity. However, 1.3-1.5 meters must not be exceeded, otherwise the material risks compacting under its weight.
The best shape in the summer is the trapezoid shape. It allows you to adequately absorb the rains and replace the evaporated water. In winter, on the contrary, it is a good idea to use the triangular one, to avoid excessive accumulation of rain inside the heap, given the poorer evaporation.
The secrets to making good compost
The secret to the success of composting lies in the correct mixing of the waste. This activity is essential to allow the correct activity of microorganisms and avoid the onset of putrefaction phenomena, with the consequent bad smells.
In practice, it is necessary to carry out a correct stratification, alternating the wetter and nitrogenous waste (grass clippings and kitchen residues), with the driest and carbonaceous ones (shredded twigs, broken cardboard, wood shavings, dry leaves, straw etc.), which guarantee good porosity and the correct supply of oxygen to the heap. The initial water content must be between 45 and 65%, while as regards the right nitrogen-carbon ratio, it is good to know that for each gram of the first you need 20 or 30 of the second.
To ensure the correct supply of humidity, the heap can be covered during rainy periods with materials such as “non-woven” or jute sheets or layers of leaves and straw of 5-10 cm. In this way we will be able to retain water without compromising air circulation. The cover can also be useful to protect against excessive drying during the summer months.
Another aspect that should not be underestimated for the success of composting is the right oxygenation. It is essential for the bacteria that perform biodegradation in aerobic conditions. For proper air exchange, it is therefore necessary not to compress the material of the heap and turn it over periodically with a fork, an operation to be repeated frequently if the heap is not very porous.
How to make compost: the fertilizer
An alternative to the heap can be the fertilizer. It consists of a hole dug in the ground to accumulate organic waste. In this case, however, problems can be encountered due to the tendency to accumulate too much water, especially in the case of a waterproofed substrate.
Another typical problem is the insufficient exchange of oxygen with the outside by the materials deposited on the bottom.
Those who choose this system will therefore have to adopt some precautions. These include the insertion of drainage pipes, a layer of gravel or a pallet under the organic material placed in the hole.
The same pallets can also be used to separate the scraps from the wall of the hole, in order to ensure a good air exchange.
How to compost using the composter
As can be guessed, the heap is particularly suitable for those who reside in homes with large gardens that produce large quantities of twigs and green waste. On the other hand, composters made of plastic, wood or mesh are more useful for those citizens who have small and medium-sized gardens available, which generate less residues.
They are containers of variable volumes (from 200 to 1,000 liters), with various types of openings. Their use allows to limit the visual impact of decaying materials, ensuring their sanitation and being less affected by atmospheric conditions. However, you may encounter difficulties in turning the material over if they cannot be opened on one side. If you intend to purchase a plastic composter, prefer those that have systems that promote air circulation in the internal walls.
But how does a composter work?
The operation of these tools is very simple. After having provided for the separate collection, just insert a layer of coarse twigs at its base, then alternately adding layers of nitrogen and carbonaceous waste, according to the same principle analyzed above. After 3-4 months, the vegetable waste must be turned over and then reinserted into the composter.
After a period of 5-6 months, the lower part of the waste, brown in color and similar to the humus of the undergrowth, will have produced a homogeneous compost and already available for use. This fraction will then have to be sieved and left to dry in the sun for a few days. The woody scraps not yet transformed must instead be reintroduced into the composter.
Of course, the use of these do-it-yourself tools implies the same adoption of good practices as for the cumulation. First of all, it is necessary to ensure the right mixing through the alternation of nitrogen and carbon layers. Then it is necessary to ensure good air circulation by inserting coarse branches and turning the material over once every 6 months. Finally, it is necessary to maintain an optimal humidity (55-60%), which favors the reproduction of aerobic microorganisms.
Generally, the compost is ready after about 12-20 weeks in the winter and 10-15 weeks in the summer. The completion of its degradation is evident both from the appearance and from the characteristic odor.
A DIY composter?
There is also the possibility of being able to build your own composter yourself. Just buy three meters of galvanized wire mesh 2.5 x 5 cm and one meter high, and then build a cylinder fixed in two points with wire or “S” hooks. The latter must be covered externally with 70 cm high jute fabric, always fixed with wire or “S” hooks and finally covered with a waterproof fabric.
Et voilà, if you respect our guide to how to make compost, you can really boast the title of 100% domestic recyclers!
Your compost can be used as fertilizer and fertilizer for re-sowing and reinforcement of degraded lawns, as a partial or even total substitute for peaty soils, as organic fertilizer and as plant nourishment.
Here is also where you can find a composter online – for all sizes and all needs – at the best prices:
Odorless compost with Japanese fermentation
We close with a curiosity, which could become important in the future. A Japanese researcher has produced a blend of bacteria that can naturally increase agricultural yields that could help prevent world hunger.
It is called EM (Effective Microorganismes, or ‘effective microorganisms’). It is a set of bacteria and other microorganisms capable of increasing the breakdown of food and agricultural remains. This is a particular type of compost that has existed in Japan for hundreds of years, it is called bokashi.
Unlike ordinary compost, EM is an odorless compost that can therefore be developed in small rooms, even in an apartment. Not only that, it can also transform meat or dairy products, normally excluded from “classic” systems.
Made for Japanese gardens and farms, EM can integrate bacteria and microorganisms from all over the world.
What Japanese fermentation can do
Its goal is ambitious. It was developed to support food production, environmental preservation, medical care and energy supply. Broadly speaking, its ultimate goal is to foster world peace. Indeed, its use during some environmental and humanitarian disasters has been positive. In fact, it made it possible to restore fertility to the rice fields swept by the 2011 tsunami in Sendai, Japan, as well as in Fukushima. It has also been of help in Ugandan refugee camps, both for its fertilizing properties and for eliminating odors.
The basis of EM is brewer’s yeast, commonly used in the production of beer and bread. It is capable of starting the fermentation process by breaking down complex sugars. The key organisms, however, are microbes that use sunlight to break down organic remains and create nutrients necessary for plant development. The addition of lactic bacteria, on the other hand, prevents the proliferation of harmful fungi.
Within an EM package, the species of microbes are also more than 80. They are all designed for their ability to assimilate waste and make it become food for ecological agriculture, all to have odorless compost.
Also, in this case we are faced with a technological solution, the result of years of research and experimentation, which works with Nature to solve the problems caused by human beings.