A beginner’s guide for turning waste into soil
Think about what you ate for lunch today. What packaging was your food wrapped in? Did you discard the banana peel in the garbage bin? Learn the why, the where, and the what about composting, along with some easy how-tos.
Our daily consumption habits and food choices produce waste. Food waste, for example, is an environmental concern because it contributes to greenhouse gas emissions when disposed of in landfill sites. We can all play a role in creating a better destiny for waste via composting.
One of the best ways to tackle waste, such as food waste, is to recycle it. Home composting is an excellent example of this. During composting, biodegradable resources such as food scraps and leaves are naturally broken down by various fungi, bacteria, and worms to create a natural fertilizer known as compost.
Composting can be done anywhere, and anytime. If you are a homeowner, you may choose to compost in your backyard, shed, or garage. If you live in an apartment, composting on the balcony or indoors are both good options.
Composting usually requires a balanced mixture of organic material made of nitrogen (greens) and carbon (browns), as well as water and air. Certain composting methods use only one type of organic material.
Consider these factors before choosing a compost method:
There are many different approaches to composting at home. Read on to find one or two that fit your needs.
This method, also known as vermicomposting, uses red wiggler worms to break down kitchen scraps and other organic waste. In a day, a worm will process up to its own weight in food to produce compost.
To start vermicomposting, you need a plastic bin with holes in the bottom and top, kitchen waste, and shredded newspaper. Red wigglers can be purchased online, or you can get them through specialized programs or events in your city.
Lasagna gardening involves layering green and brown material to create a bed of compost. If you wish to create a garden bed using this method, the first layer should be cardboard or newspaper to suppress weeds. Continue adding equal layers of greens and browns; water the layers.
Catherine Cook has been practising lasagna gardening for the past decade, and her advice is to do it in the fall for best results. “A lot of the ingredients are readily available [in] and the layers have a chance to break down over winter.” But you can do it in the summer or spring as well.
This method uses a four-bin system to compost large piles of organic material outdoors at different stages. You can also use a two- or three-bin system. Start by adding greens and browns to the first bin. When the first bin becomes full, move the material to the next bin, where it will continue to break down. The compost will mature in the last bin.
This composting method is done in closed bins, or as open piles. Backyard composters are typically made of plastic. They can often be purchased from a local municipal department any time of year. If composting using open piles, cover with burlap or plastic to retain moisture.
This composting method simply involves mowing the lawn and leaving the grass cuttings on the ground. According to Kyle Heeley, sustainable waste management project coordinator at the Regional Municipality of York, grass cycling improves lawn quality and reduces lawn care time. “It is a pretty low-effort diversion opportunity that most people could do fairly easily,” says Heeley.
This composting method uses leaves. It can be done in an open pile or inside bags; you can use either garbage plastic bags or paper yard waste bags. These can be purchased from your local hardware store.
Punch some holes in the bottom and the sides. Fill the bag with leaves and add some water. Leaf mulching is generally broken down by fungi. Hence, it requires moisture and cool conditions. You can also shred the leaves using a lawn mower and leave them on the lawn or soil, similar to grass cycling.