In just a few steps, and sprinkled with a lot of patience, we make our own compost at Dallington Pollinators Community Garden. The process is not that complex. Not only do we produce our own fertilizer, we also contribute to waste recycling and climate change mitigation.
First of all, let's understand what composting is and why it is important.
What is composting?
Composting is basically nature's way of recycling.
It is a process that converts organic materials into a nutrient-rich soil through a natural decomposition process. The key players engaged in this conversion are the macro and microorganisms . The macro-organisms such as mites, centipedes, sow bugs, ants and earthworms are physical decomposers that grind, tear, and chew materials into smaller pieces. Micro-organisms such as bacteria and fungi are chemical decomposers that break down organic matter. The organic materials simply refer to basic waste materials, such as food scraps and leaf litter that we throw away every day without use. The final product of composting is a nutrient rich soil that can be used as a natural fertilizer in agricultural fields and gardens.
Importance of composting
How does composting contribute to climate change mitigation?
When organic waste is deposited in landfills, it emits methane, a potent greenhouse gas and a major contributor to climate change. Composting reduces the amount of waste sent to landfills, helping mitigate climate change while also providing numerous other benefits.
Reduces the use of harmful chemical fertilizers by producing natural fertilizers
Reduces the cost of purchasing fertilizers
Reduces waste and encourages waste recycling
Improves soil quality
Increases the yields of agricultural crops
Now, let’s get back to how we do composting in our garden.
In our garden, we use a three-bin composting system, which consists of three composting bins arranged side by side as a unified system. This system is beneficial for managing large amounts of material in a garden setting. However, for a home garden, a single bin can also be sufficient.
Figure: 1 -Three-bin Composting System
Step 1: Prepare the ingredients.
There are two types of ingredients that are needed for composting. They are called green and brown material.
Greens are the nitrogen rich material while browns are the carbon rich material. In our garden we use vegetable and fruit scraps, crushed eggshells, and coffee grounds as the green material. You can also add material like paper tea bags, paper filters and yard trim.
For brown material, we use dry leaves, twigs, wood chips and shredded paper.
If you are going to do composting at home make sure to avoid material like meat, fish, bones, fats, oils and greases, glossy paper and cheese and dairy products as they will not provide the best conditions for the macro and microorganisms to do their work.
Also, if you are placing a new bin, ensure you have easy access to a water source, as moisture is a key element required for the process, along with good air circulation.
Step 2: Collecting, storing and layering.
After identifying the key ingredients, we pile up the compost bin with the right proportions of ingredients to provide correct levels of conditions for the organisms to break down the material into finished compost.
Here is what we do!
It is like layering a lasagna.
First, we chop the browns and greens and break them up into smaller pieces. Doing so will help the materials in the pile break down faster.
We start the pile with a four- to six-inch layer of'' browns” such as dry leaves, wood chips and twigs at the very bottom. This will help absorb extra moisture and improve air circulation at the base. Then we add a layer of greens. We make sure to maintain at least two to three times the volume of browns to the volume of greens when doing the layering . And the layering is continued until the bin is full. Always ensure your food scraps are covered by four to eight inches of dry leaves or other browns.
Step 3: Maintenance
Air and moisture are the other key components to maintain. The compost is turned at least once a week to improve air circulation.
Checking the moisture of the pile: It should look like a wrung-out sponge. Spray water as needed.
Step 3: Continuing
Once the pile is arranged and left for some time, it starts to heat up gradually and then starts to cool down. When the first bin is full and begins to cool down, we move the material to the next bin (BIN 2). With that, we start filling the first bin with fresh material. When the second bin is full and starts to cool down, we transfer the materials to the 3rd bin, and the process continues (Figure). BIN 3 is where the final product is made.
When the third bin is no longer heats up after mixing, and when there are no visible food scraps, we allow the pile to cure, or finish, for at least four weeks before using. The final product is dark, loose fresh soil.
This is how we do the composting. We use the produced compost to nurture the soil at Dallington Pollinators Community Garden and we get to enjoy fresh, chemical free and uncontaminated fruits and vegetables in our garden.
Remember, there are many other ways to do composting in your home garden. We hope this information helps you better understand our process and leads you to start off on your journey to composting and producing ‘black gold’!
The three-bin composting system at Dallington Polllinators Community Garden
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