By Marishka Myers
At the time of writing, South Africa has just gone into a 21-day which extended into 77 days of lockdown. Suddenly, without all the razzle and dazzle of life, we have more spare time on our hands than ever before – and what better time to do something positive for the planet, like starting your own compost heap at home!?
Why should I compost?
Firstly, composting keeps a significant portion (according to research, almost half!) of your trash out of landfills. You might think that organic waste decomposes naturally in landfills, but it doesn’t – instead, it releases methane gas as it decomposes. This greenhouse gas is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide and contributes significantly to climate change! In your compost heap, on the other hand, oxygen helps the waste to decompose aerobically which means hardly any methane is produced, which in turn is giving back to our planet.
Of course, a compost pile also provides chemical-free fertilizer. Your organic waste is rich with nutrients and after 9 to 12 months of decomposing, you’ll have beautiful compost to improve your soil structure and maintain moisture levels.
In the words of Urban Farmer, Amanda Rousso, “Composting is the simplest and one of the most generous, considerate and connected actions we can take. By giving back the offcuts of our plant-based food for nature to digest, we are contributing to a fundamental cycle that keeps human beings alive!”
What can’t I compost?
A compost pile starts with understanding which of your waste you can use to compost. But perhaps the best place to start is an understanding of what should not be composted. The following are absolute no-nos:
-Dog & Cat Poop: contain microorganisms and parasites
-Animal products: meat, bones, dairy, butter, milk, fish skins as this will make it stinky
-Citrus Peels and Onions: these are too acidic
-Coal Ash: contains petrochemicals, sulfur and iron in amounts high enough to damage plants
-No bread or rice or cooked foods
-No glossy or coated paper or sticky labels
-And obviously no plastic!
What can I put onto my compost heap?
A good compost heap consists of a balance of green and brown materials.
– Green materials include all uncooked vegetable and matter (other than the above) as well as grass clippings. these are rich in nitrogen.
-Brown materials include dried leaves and ash from a fireplace (that was not burned with coal) as well as broken up bits of bagasse think egg boxes). these are all rich in carbon.
Where do I start?
You don’t necessarily need anything to start your compost heap: you can literally start by piling twigs and branches (this creates ventilation at the bottom of your heap). From there, you can alternate between green layers (household compostables, grass clippings) and brown layers (leaves, twigs) with more brown so that the pile doesn’t get too soggy. Within six months your compost should be ready to use!
Here are a few tips to look out for:
-Location! Due to South Africa’s warmer climate, you’ll want to find a spot that gets partial shade, so your compost heap doesn’t lose too much water due to evaporation. It sometimes helps to top it off with a layer of mulch which you can buy from any nursery, to keep the moisture in.
-Turn! Once a month you should turn your compost heap with a fork to aerate it & thereby speed up the composting process.
– Get a bin! If you’re concerned about your heap smelling, get a compost bin with a lid.
– If your compost is too wet, it’s probably slimy and small. A good rule-of-thumb is the sponge test: your compost should have the consistency and moisture content of a wrung-out but slightly wet kitchen sponge when you squeeze it. … If your compost is too dry, water it from the top down until you reach the desired “wrung sponge” consistency.
Other types of composting:
If you live in an apartment with limited space, you may want to consider the Bokashi method. This involves using a Bokashi bin and Earth probiotic (which can be ordered on sites such as Faithful To Nature) to compost everything from kitchen scraps to meat as well as dairy. Your compostables are kept in the bucket, mixed with Earth probiotics and set aside for 10 to 12 days. The bucket needs to be drained every other day. Once the process is completed you’ll be left with pre-compost that you can use in your garden.
Then there is Vermiculture which uses earthworms (most red-wrigglers) to create compost. Watch this little by Green Villages how to see just how easy it is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Berf8Sy0SCI
If you want to ‘dig a little deeper’ into your #returntonature, why not read our blog on how to grow your own veggies from scrap?