Composting from Scratch
The practice of composting is finally becoming a common again after suffering large-scale abandonment with the invention of chemical fertilizers. Decomposed organic matter is very effective plant food, and if you want some, getting your hands on the necessary ingredients is as easy as taking a look into your trash can. Let’s take a gander at the different ways to compost food, and what makes each of them useful.
This is what most of us will think of when we hear the word “compost”. My grandma had a big old compost head behind the shed where we would dump vegetable peels, spoiled food, or just about anything else that wasn’t made of plastic. If you’re not too worried about the smell then this takes virtually no babysitting or strategy, you just dump your stuff and wait for it to rot until it looks like dirt. It’s the easiest way to go, but unfortunately many of us don’t have access to a backyard where we’d be at liberty to put a bunch of decomposing matter.
As a way to solve this problem urban composters developed lots of different ways to compost indoors, usually working hard to minimize the smell and speed up the process as much as possible.
- Bucket Style - This is the simplest type of indoor composting. We simply take our food waste and put it into a bucket along with a bit of ripped up newspaper. The newspaper absorbs some of the liquid and prevents having too much decay soup from forming at the bottom of the bucket. Regularly mix it up and add newspaper as necessary to keep it from becoming sludgy. To keep the smell down more put a lid (with some small air holes in it) over the top of it. A well-functioning compost bin shouldn’t have a strong odor.
- Vermiculture - This type of composting is a bit more complicated than the previous method in that that you keep a colony of worms in your bucket, and you set up several different layers. Worms don’t like drowning any more than any other creature so drill some holes into the bottom of your bin and place something below it to catch the juices that form as the food decays. I just use one of those planter liners that you use to keep water from dripping all over the place. Put in a layer of moist shredded newspaper followed by some food waste and your worms. Keep adding food and newspaper, and eventually close it up and let it sit for a few months while monitoring the moisture and health of your worms. Both the compost and the juice you collected at the bottom are very effective fertilizers.
- Fancy Automatic Composter - This is exactly what it sounds like. They’re expensive but can turn over a load of food waste in a matter of just a few weeks. It monitors moisture and air content in the soil automatically and adjusts it to make decomposition odorless and rapid.
- Bokashi - Bokashi isn’t really composting, it’s fermentation. You dump start out with the same process as the bucket composting with some newspaper and the waste, and then add micro-organisms that you can order online or buy at the store (or you can grow your own). Then you seal it air-tight and let it ferment for a few weeks. Once it’s nice and fermented you should place it in a more normal compost environment for a few more weeks to let it properly decompose. As a result you’ll get a very dark compost that functions as a slow-release fertilizer rather than the high-impact low endurance compost from the other methods.