Composting at Home – our Beginners’ Guide

As so many of us live in flats and apartments with little or no outside space, it’s easy to feel a bit unconnected to the soil: but soil is a critical link in the food chain and composting is how we keep it healthy. Everyone can (and should!) compost.

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If you want to get motivated, here’s our guide to the facts:

  • Composting at home is the single most effective way of recycling organic waste that would otherwise find its way to landfill – and it doesn’t cost anything to get started.

  • Food waste that ends up in landfill can’t decompose properly because it’s mixed up with other unbiodegradable waste. This means it produces methane – one of the dangerous and powerful greenhouse gases. 

  • Composting food scraps and other suitable things like grass and cardboard reduces waste, cuts cost, and gives you a very useful soil fertiliser for growing your own plants and food. 

  • By composting the material at home, you can be part of the solution for our climate crisis, rather than part of the problem. 

And that’s not all. There are other tangible benefits of composting:

  • It can save you money on waste disposal – rates and taxes.

  • It saves you money on fertilizers at the garden centre.

  • It reduces demand for scarce natural resources like peat which we need to store carbon.

  • It makes your plants healthier by supressing plant diseases.

Materials that would otherwise be thrown away are turned into a valuable resource, which you can use to fill pots and containers, or return to the soil to nourish it. If you haven’t started composting yet, let’s help you get set up: 

 

Composting: The Basics

Composting isn’t complicated – it’s something which happens naturally on a forest floor and it’s just what we call the natural process of breaking down organic material.  When we make compost at home, we’re basically just finding ways to shortcut this natural process and use it to our advantage. 

Composting can either be aerobic (materials break down in the presence of oxygen) or anaerobic (oxygen is excluded). In home composting systems, we’re usually trying to create some kind of aerobic composting system. 

Aerobic composting involves:

  • oxygen

  • the right temperatures

  • enough water – but not too much

  • the right balance of carbon rich (‘brown’) and nitrogen rich (‘green’) materials. (Brown materials are things like dry leaves, cardboard and straw;  green materials are things like fruit and vegetable scraps, grass clippings, green leaves and animal manure.)

As long as you get a balance of these materials, it’s easy to create a quality compost at home. 

 

Types of Composting

Before you start composting at home, choose whether to:

  • Compost in place (in your containers and planters, or in the ground).

  • Set up a cold composting system (for materials to break down slowly in a heap or bin).

  • Speed things up with a hot composting system (which also allows you to compost a wider range of materials).

  • Enlist the help of special composting worms (by setting up a vermicomposting system). 

  • Invest in a compost tumbler, or try fermenting organic material in a bokashi system before composting. 

Whichever method you go for, just remember the basics and you can’t go too far wrong. You can always refine your composting system over time but as long as you’re not wasting organic material from your garden and home, you’re making a difference.

You can get all sorts of composting advice if you go online but try us first for tips and support for composting at home or in school. Talk to the team at positiveplanet.uk

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