From trash to treasure. Composting for beginners

Every plant grows better in fertilized soil. Compost is one of the most available and widely used fertilizers for gardens and vegetable patches, and its popularity as a fertilization method is on the rise with every passing season. Many who have tried it speak positively of its effects, and it usually lives up to its promises. 
However, it's important to use the right kind of compost to ensure that your garden and plants benefit from it. Misunderstandings about the composting process often arise due to contradictory recommendations, dubious advice, and myths that have surrounded composting for years. To avoid making common mistakes, keep reading this article.

What are the benefits of compost?

Composting has countless benefits for both you and the environment. Here are some of the most important ones:
  • In most countries, on average 30% to 40% of food ends up in landfills, and this creates a huge amount of garbage. Home composting helps reduce the amount of waste by returning it to the ground after the process of food decomposition.
  • Reducing garbage also has positive effects on the environment. At the landfill, anaerobic decomposition increases methane emissions, but in a compost bin, organic materials decompose aerobically and mainly release carbon dioxide. This gas is much less harmful than methane, so composting is a better alternative if you want to minimize emissions.
  • Composting is a process that yields excellent organic fertilizer, and the best part is that you have complete control over its preparation.
Composting is the most accessible and versatile way to obtain high-quality organic fertilizer. However, affordability should not be confused with ease of creation. Simply dumping all of your organic waste into a pile will not yield a high-quality product. Compost is not just a stack of decomposed plant residue and food scraps, as some people mistakenly believe. It is a complex fermentation process that involves several stages of maturation to create a fertilizer from over-decomposed organic matter.

So what to do? To begin with, you need to understand what a compost heap or compost box looks like and what to choose.

Aerobic vs. anaerobic compost

There are two main types of compost: aerobic and anaerobic compost. 
Aerobic composting is made with oxygen access, which allows it to mature quickly and become quite crumbly. On the other hand, compost from a composting box or pit matures without oxygen access, which allows for the development of other types of microbes that thrive without oxygen. In this type of composting, fermentation is the primary process that takes place.

• To get aerobic compost you need to construct a compost pile. To make a compost pile, you can make it using a chain-link mesh inside which the basic ingredients for compost are placed in layers. It is well ventilated, however, it needs to be dampened with water from time to time. Humidity should be between 45 and 70% all the time.
The compost generated from the pile undergoes a rapid transformation and can be ready in as little as 2-3 months. Furthermore, the aerobic composting method effectively eliminates harmful pathogens, making it a crucial aspect of the process.
On the downside, it is worth noting that some of the nitrogen substances in the compost are weathered, so it is less nutritious than compost prepared anaerobically.
• To get anaerobic compost, you must either dig a compost pit or make or buy a compost box. If you choose the pit and plan to use it for more than one year, it should be concreted.
When adding waste to the pit or box, it should be thoroughly compacted so that as much air as possible comes out, and the top should be covered with airtight material.
In contrast to a pile, compost matures much more slowly and will take 6 months to a year to mature. Also, the disadvantages are that this method does not kill pathogens. However, such compost is of much higher quality.

What you can put in compost

There's a common misconception that you can put anything you want into a compost whenever you want. But this is incorrect. 
Plant waste can be composted during the warm season, but autumn is the ideal time for composting due to the copious amount of fallen leaves and plant debris. As the "materials" become available, they can be stacked separately or gradually added to an empty composter in layers. You don't need to do everything at once.
As for the components, you can use only what is able to decompose to humus and belongs to the organic, natural waste from home and garden. Moreover, all ingredients are divided into greens and browns and must be stacked in layers:
  • Greens are the nitrogenous components. This group includes: manure, poultry manure, grass clippings, dense stems of garden and vegetable crops, green weeds, vegetable and fruit waste. They maintain an optimal carbon-nitrogen balance, which is important for ripening.
  • Browns are the carbonaceous components. These are straw, fallen leaves, wood chips, paper, cardboard, shredded wood, bark, branch cuttings. This is food for bacteria to decompose, loosen and enrich your future compost.

The optimal proportion is two-thirds green components to one-third brown components.
Note: Not all ingredients for compost are good or acceptable. Anything artificial has no place in compost. But even with paper, it's not all that clear-cut. Only unprocessed and biodegradable paper can be used. But office sheets, especially those with printouts, are forbidden, as are all kinds of decorative paper with a special treatment that is not recyclable.

How to improve compost

Another misconception is that compost on its own is good and that all you have to do is to get the compost properly and wait for a high-quality product. 
But this is not true. To improve the quality, especially in the initial stage, it is desirable to fill the compost with a solution of beneficial bacteria. On sale you can find both special for composting preparations, and universal. The main thing is to make sure that the composition is natural and there are no additives of surfactants.
Another way to enhance the composting process is to ensure an even distribution of oxygen, break up any compacted layers, and mix the materials to facilitate more efficient fermentation and maturation. It's also recommended to stir the compost on a regular basis, typically every 1-2 months, and especially if there are any concerns such as unusual odors or indications of suboptimal temperatures.

What compost is not good for

No matter how good your compost is, it is not a universal organic fertilizer. It is an excellent basis for a system of maintaining soil fertility and texture, creating ideal conditions for plants, but for some purposes compost is not suitable.
It is best used in early spring to improve the soil, as it is rich in nitrogen. And as you know, nitrogen is the main element for building up the green mass of plants. If you still want to harvest, this fertilizer option is no longer relevant in late spring and early summer. 
We also do not recommend it for fertilizing plants that can accumulate nitrates - radish, spinach, beet, leaf lettuce. As it is impossible to control the application of micronutrients to the soil without special equipment, in the worst-case scenario your vegetables may simply be unfit for consumption, so be careful.

Composting is an incredibly valuable resource, especially for those who are dedicated to organic farming. However, like anything else, there are both advantages and disadvantages to using compost. If you ultimately decide that composting is not the best option for you, that's perfectly fine! There are plenty of other ways to engage in environmentally friendly recycling.
And if you still have questions, you can always ask your personal assistant - AI-Assistant.
Regardless of your decision, the PLNT team believes in your ability to make a positive impact, and we are always here to offer support and assistance along this way 💚