Many people across the country have taken to various hobbies or activities while staying at home during the pandemic. One of the most popular activities is gardening. It is not just an art, hard work and talent, but an enriching experience as well. It is very fulfilling to watch a plant grow from a sapling to bloom or to pluck fresh organic produce from your own kitchen patch. The fact that growing our own selection of vegetables is contributing to the environment while taking care of our health is a great bonus.
For an amateur gardener or a professional one, planting requires a lot of hard work and research. One segment of gardening that requires research and practice is composting.
What is Compost?
Compost is an organic fertiliser that could be added to the plants for them to grow and flourish. The process of preparing compost, wherein the substances decompose or break down organically to produce a nutritious soil conditioner, is called composting. Various natural elements could be used to prepare compost. It is a straightforward and easy procedure, which involves daily home-based products.
There are many benefits to composting at home. Firstly, it nullifies the need for chemical fertilisers which, especially in the current scenario, is a great advantage. It helps in producing beneficial bacteria and fungi, which help in breaking down organic matter into humus, which is an excellent soil-enhancing nutrient. More importantly, it reduces our carbon footprint and contributes to the betterment of the environment by reducing the waste production.
While composting is quite a painless procedure, there is a myth that composting cannot be done everywhere. Most people believe that you need a full-fledged garden space or a back or front yard with open air to do composting. Modern apartments lack space and amenities, while there are doubts about bugs, dirt, odour, worms etc. This is why most people who live in apartments or those with limited garden space avoid composting.
However, there are a few simple steps that could be taken to take care of such problems. This will help you understand that composting, while may seem complicated, is actually quite simple.
How to Start Composting?
First and foremost, get a medium to a big sized container, with a lid. It is essential that you get a container that is big enough for you to keep adding composting elements. Make sure to drill a few holes in and around the container for air circulation. These holes will make sure that your compost is naturally decomposed with enough oxygen circulation. If your container has a lid, line it with newspapers. This will help combat odour and bugs.
Good composting requires a lot of air and sunlight. That is why you must place your compost container in someplace where there is a lot of sunlight and good air circulation. If you have a terrace, it is the best location for a compost bin, otherwise, a balcony or even a kitchen window sill works fine.
Once you gather your organic material like food waste, raw food scraps, peels, uncoated paper, dry leaves, etc., you just need to layer your waste collection with coco peat and natural sawdust. This will help in enhancing the nutrient level of the compost, as well as keep odour and bugs at bay.
Keep an old stirring spoon separate to stir this compost mix once in a while. Keep adding the daily organic waste and layering it with coco peat or dry leaves. A full container will take about two months to turn into dark, dry and blended compost. You can check the progress when you stir it. You will know it is completely ready when the dark substance becomes crumbly like moist soil. Transfer it to another container and sprinkle water to moisten it. This is your ready-to-use manure that can be stored for at least two months. Remember to keep it moist for the compost to be easily used.
If you find that your compost is stinking or that there are bugs or worms in it, it means that your coco peat and leaves mixture is inadequate as compared to your organic material. Add more coco peat or dry leaves and stir well. However, you will find common house flies that may pose a problem. Make an organic repellent of garlic and green chillies boiled in water and sprinkle it in and around your compost bin to ward off the flies.
What can be used for composting from household wastes?
While commonly fruits and vegetable scraps are used, there are other things from your daily life that can be put in the compost bin. Eggshells and coffee grounds are great additions increasing the calcium levels in the compost. If you use tea bags for your tea, those are great additions too, along with nutshells, shredded newspaper, cardboard and uncoated paper. If you have plants in your home, their dry leaves, grass clippings, hay, straw, sawdust, wood chippings, yard trimmings etc. could be added into the compost bin. There are some uncommon things like hair, dryer and vacuum lint, cotton and wool rags, fur and fireplace ash, that also can go in for compost.
While looking for things that can go into the compost bin, you must know something that cannot be used for composting, either because they would not decompose or they are merely harmful to plants.
Coal or ash is sometimes said to be full of substances that can harm a plant. Hence it is good to avoid it. Dairy products like milk, curd, cheese, eggs, butter etc. can create an odour problem as well as attract pests. Similarly, grease, oil or lard are a strict no-no for similar reasons, along with meat and fish bones.
If you have plants which already have some pest problem or are diseased in some way, it is good to avoid the dry waste of those plants in making your compost. The disease can be transferred on to a healthy plant.
It is a fact that composting is somewhat a messy affair and requires getting used to, but it is also true that once you do it right, it is a gratifying and enriching experience.