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How to start composting: A beginner’s guide

Collecte et traitement des déchets en temps de confinement: un véritable casse-tête ?

Starting a compost heap is more difficult that it seems unless you thoroughly do your homework beforehand. Depending on the method you go with, let’s take a hot bin for example, it can easily turn into a stinking pile of garbage. In this article, we’ll walk you through the necessary steps for you to avoid as many unnecessary struggles as possible.

What do I put in?

Once you’ve chosen your bin and found a spot far away from your nose to put it, it’s time to fill it up. Not all organic waste can go in it: meat, diary, fat, bones, and diseased plants cannot go in. Since your bin is most likely sitting in your garden, the previously mentioned will attract rats, pests, and undesired insects near your home, not to mention the odor. No matter how safely locked your bin is, they will always find a way inside. Also, make sure not to add any plastic, glass, or metals.

For what you can and should add to your heap: fruit waste, vegetable peels, teabags, grass cuttings, fallen leaves, general yard waste, egg cardboard boxes and shredded newspapers. To maintain a successful compost heap, you must balance out moist and dry stuff. The reason why you add egg cardboard boxes and newspapers even though they decompose slower than the rest is to dry your mixture as well as create air flow inside the heap. Otherwise it’ll create methane which will not only smell bad but also pollute. You can also add crushed eggshells to assure minerals.

But how do I get the mixture right?

To get a proper ratio, you need a good balance of “browns” and “greens”. Browns are dry leaves, newspaper, wood chips (mostly the yard waste). Greens are the food scraps, grass clippings, manure (coming from vegetarian animals) and weeds. 

A good way to tell if your mixture isn’t good enough is that it’s not heating up properly and becomes unusable and, once again, smells bad. The most common and successful ratio is 4 browns to 1 green on paper. This is to balance out carbon (browns) with nitrogen (greens) but keep in mind that some greens might have more nitrogen than others and some browns might have more carbon than others…

OK, now what?

Once you’ve put all the goodies inside and left the bad stuff out, you’ll need to monitor your heap daily. Indeed, this is not something that you do once at the start and forget about it. 

To make sure the pile has proper airflow, and it doesn’t get too wet in there, it is crucial that you turn your compost with a rake (or a tool of your choice) around once every 1-2 weeks depending on your pile. This will also help the microbes to do their jobs well, and when they do their jobs well, they heat the place up which is beneficial to accelerating the process. But beware that too hot is not good either, so you also need to keep turning if it gets too hot.

In 6 months to a year, you’ll have a dark layer at the bottom of your bin. Congratulations that’s proper potting soil full of nutrients!

Are there any ways to make this easier?

I’m glad you asked that question! At Greenzy, we can offer you a method that’s not only easier and faster, but you can also easily fit it right inside your kitchen without having to deal with any bad smells thanks to aerobic composting. Our interior composter is equipped with sensors that deal with all the monitoring on your behalf and all you gotta do is check the notifications the composter gives you on your smartphone. Read more about the details here.


Sources

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S003807170500324X
https://aem.asm.org/content/54/12/3107.short
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0269749103004068
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0956053X11001668
https://nph.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1469-8137.2008.02751.x

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