Several societies in Dwarka have taken up composting in the past few months. Ekta society in Sector 3, Shivalik Apartments in Sector 6 and Harmony Apartments in Sector 4 are just a few. And it seems others are set to follow suit. After all, there is good reason why compost is often referred to as black gold!
If you’re wondering what composting is, it is just a way to add humus to the soil to restore its vitality and promote plant growth. But given the hundreds of things that demand our attention every day, why is composting so important?
At a time that green drives are so popular, and urban waste a raging battle in modern society, composting is everyone's way of doing their bit in tackling these issues. To begin with, it doesn't cost anything. Plus, you have the raw materials right in your homes. In your garbage bins, to be precise. The waste you throw away every day is the very thing you need to recycle into humus through composting. Just imagine how much less we'll be complaining of overflowing landfills and garbage stench if urban waste is drastically reduced — and reused. Given that the average citizen generates about 700 g of solid waste per person per day, this doesn't seem like such a bad idea.
So, here are a few easy steps to composting:
1) Where to compost:
Choose a suitable place for composting. You can either choose a patch in your garden or use a composting bin, which could be a large plastic container or a trash can. First, make five to six holes each on the lid, the sides and the bottom of the bin. Prefer to keep the bin on soil, so beneficial bacteria can make their way into the compost, accelerating the process. However, if you don't have a patch of soil on which to keep the bin, adding a layer of garden soil at the bottom also does the trick. According to Sparkpeople.com, all compost heaps, contained or not, should be approximately 3x3 ft to be the most effective.
2) What to add:
Lay a few twigs and straws to aerate the materials and aid drainage. Now head to your kitchen for collecting waste material from your garbage bin. Composting material can be divided into “green” waste and “brown” waste. Green waste is high in nitrogen and includes fruit and vegetable peels, table scraps and tea leaves. Brown waste provides the much-needed carbon to the compost and includes items such as egg shells, tissues, leaves and newspapers. Eartheasy has a neatly tabulated list of materials to add to your compost. You can also check out Compost-info-guide for more know-how. Another essential your compost needs is air or moisture. To let more air into the compost, turn the pile once every week or two. Compost-info-guide.com says that the compost should feel like a damp sponge that shouldn’t release any water when squeezed.
3) What not to add:
If you don't want your compost to be smelling to the high heavens, be very careful about what you put in. Not everything in your garbage bin can go into your compost. Animal products — such as meat, bones and fish — and dairy items are a strict no-no. Perennial weeds and diseased plants also do not fit the bill. Goodhousekeeping advises against fats, oils and pet waste as well. Wikihow adds plastic or synthetic fibres, disposable diapers (nappies); glossy paper or magazines; coal and coke ash to the list.
4) How to compost:
Compost-info-guide suggests beginning with a three-inch layer of brown waste above the twigs and straws, followed by a two-inch layer of green waste covered with a thin layer of garden soil or some finished compost. Add more layers, alternating between green and brown until the bin is almost full.
5) How to tell if your compost is ready:
Finished compost is moist, smells earthy and looks as dark as ground coffee. If there’s a rotten-egg smell to it — and you see your neighbourhood cat or dog sniffing at it, or crows flying dangerously close to it — you’ve put in something you shouldn’t have. Or it’s not getting enough air or is too wet. To set this right, try adding dry brown waste to it, such as straw, peanut shells or sawdust.
6) How long composting takes:
How long it takes to prepare compost depends on the materials used, how often you’ve turned the pile and the ratio of greens to browns. Usually, about two to three months later, your compost should start looking dark brown, dry and crumbly. However, compost could also take about a year to form. One thing to be careful about is not using the compost too early, as, according to Compost-info-guide.com, it could burn plants and plant roots and, in some cases, prevent seeds from germinating properly. This is due to the heat given off during the final decomposition process. When using unfinished compost, the site suggests testing a small amount first. Alternatively, you could also put a few inches between the stems and the compost.