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How to start composting



Composting is one way to reduce your food waste while creating rich manure for your garden. What was once a strange exercise is now commonplace, with many junk collection facilities across the United States, and in Britain, food scrap is now composting.

Whether you live in a city or far out in the country, you can compost part of your recycling routine . Here are some basics to get started.

Read more: These are the garden tips you need to know

What is composting?

Composting basically helps debris and other organic objects to decompose in a substance that can be used to alter the soil composition so that it is more nutritious for plants. To start the composting process, some bacterial activators are added to the organic material to create heat. The heat causes the organic material to decompose faster than it would be in nature.

What are some objects that can be composted?

Basically, if it grows, it can be composted. Here are some examples:

  • Fruit and vegetable scales
  • Melon rails
  • Partially eating apples
  • Coffee grounds
  • Grass clippings
  • Leaves
  • Beans and legumes

Some gardeners even add fish, meat, bones and dairy products for their compost. This is good if you don't have problems with rodents or raccoons. These foods create a strong odor that scavengers cannot resist.

External composting

There are two main ways of composting: outside and inside. Let's first look at composting outside.

Some gardeners prefer to have a compost pile in their yard. This is exactly what it sounds like. It is a pile of layered with grass clippings, food pieces, sticks and dead leaves.

The stack is started in a sunny area with a layer of twigs and sticks on the ground to help with the air flow. Then, damp organic material (such as food scrap or grass clippings) is layered with dry material, such as leaves, twigs and sawdust. The dry material is crucial, because you do not want the compost to be too moist, which will cause unsightly odors and attract pests.

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A layer of dry material, such as leaves, is important for outdoor composting.


Alina Bradford / CNET

This type of composting takes a little work because the pile will need to be twisted (basically mixed) every week or two by means of a height or compost aerator. The advantage is that it is basically free. The only thing you need to buy is a turning tool and a compost activator.

A lighter outdoor solution is a compost drum such as Yimby or Miracle-Gro Large Double Chamber Compost Tumbler. Both of these consist of rotating barrels as you throw your farm and food waste in and then spins five to six times every two to three days. The spinning mixes the compost to encourage rapid and even decomposition.

The same rules on wet and dry material apply; You need to keep the compost balanced so that it breaks down properly. When choosing an outdoor system, also look for a device that has many vent holes to release gases caused by the degradation of the food. A closed container can explode if too much pressure from gases is built up.

In composting

  whirlpoolzeraphotos-8

High-tech compost, such as Whirlpool's Zera, can turn food scrap into compost in a matter of hours.


Chris Monroe / CNET

Indoor composting is almost foolproof with high tech compost maps, such as Zera or Food Cycler Platinum. With this type of unit, you just drop in food scrap and compost activator. The unit uses heat and pressure to turn the scrapers into fertilizers, usually within 3 to 24 hours. Some units can produce about 2 pounds of fertilizer for 8 pounds of food waste.

Okay, I have shredded compost, what?

When the food breaks, it will look like woody dirt. You can spray small amounts in house plants or into large quantities in a garden pot. You can also sprinkle it on your lawn or tree to make them healthier.

Once you have exhausted your finished compost, you can continue the process by adding food scrap and farm waste to your heap or compost basket. A well-maintained compost bowl can provide you with compost for many years to come.

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Originally published July 13, 2018.
Update, March 18, 2019 : Published for spring 2019.


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