Sustainable living, composting
Ever since I can remember, my mom has been an avid “gardener”. We only had a little balcony as I grew up, but I like to think that’s where I picked up a fondness of sustainable gardening (and living).
I remember the compost bin we had on our balcony (an old plastic garbage bin with holes drilled into it and a flap in the bottom), where my mom tried her hand at composting our vegetable waste.
There’s two ways to start composting, over open ground and in a closed container. The same basic principles apply, but it’s slightly easier to compost over open ground, as some of the necessities will eventually sort themselves out over time.
However, to give your open ground compost container a good start, you pretty much need the same as for a closed container.
Oddly enough, neither of those methods is smelly. The bins just give off a fresh earthy smell that I associate with a forrest or a freshly turned flowerbed.
The closed container is so free of smell you can easily use it indoors, for instance under the sink!
What you need to get started is the following:
- A container
- Some healthy organic soil
- Roughage (newspapers or hay)
- Some water
- Things you want to compost
Let’s begin with what container you need. It depends greatly on the space you have available, and if you’re going to be composting over open ground or not.
Over open ground you can buy a compost container (I bought mine for about 15 Euro a few years back) or you can build your own, for instance by making a circle out of wire mesh about a meter high and a meter in diameter.
Loosen up the earth where the container will be placed before you place it.
When you don’t have a garden, three deep stackable containers of the same size will work fine.
You should drill holes in the sides and bottoms of two of the containers. You want the holes in the bottom to be large enough to accomodate worms to easily go through, and placed about 5 cm’s apart. The holes in the sides are just for aeration and can be much smaller (after all, how much air can bottom dwelling organisms need?).
If you keep your worms content, they won’t try to escape.
Stack your containers so that the one without holes is on the bottom, place something in it to allow some extra space for the next container up to drain easily, and place the third container directly on the second one.
From here on in the procedure is the same for both methods.
Place some roughage in the bottom, shredded newspaper, hay or straw will do just fine. (Preferably something that can retain moisture)
Now ad some water and make sure that most of it is wet, any excess water will drain automatically, but adding too much is just a waste of effort ;-)
Your worms now have a nice bedding, chuck them in.
As they live in soil, you need to add some here, about 2 – 3 cm’s should be ample. The benefit of using healthy soil is that it has a lot of micro organisms that are needed for a healthy plant life are already there and will be in the new soil after the composting process.
You should use healthy organic soil, as chemical fertiliser can be harmful to micro organisms and your worms.
Now you can start adding compostable materials.
All fruits and veggies, garden trimmings, egg shells, tea bags (without staples) etc. etc. Basically all organic materials except for meat.
You want to break all that stuff down, crush egg shells and see to it that the rest is in thin slices or small chunks. This is a lot easier for the worms to eat, which will speed up the whole process.
If you have a lid on your bin, close it and wait for a few months, all the while adding materials.
If you have the indoor version, when the top container is full, put it in the bottom most bin, and put the empty middle bin on top of it. This will give you a new bin, the worms will migrate to the top bin after consuming all of the edible materials in the middle bin.
Also, the water (“compost tea”) that accumulates in the bottom bin is very fertile. Dilute it and use it to water your indoor plants instead of throwing it out. You won’t need a fertilizer anymore :-)
Some of the stuff I put in my compost bin:
- Egg shells
- Onion and garlic skins
- Potato peelings
- Broccoli stems
- Flowers after they’ve bloomed
- Weeds and trimmings from the garden
- Rabbit waste (woodscrapings, hay and droppings)