When I was a child I spent a lot of time in my grandparents’ vegetable garden and I often saw them collecting fruit peels, egg shells and coffee grounds, crumbled and mixed with the soil of the garden. My grandma told me that this waste was perfect to feed our seedlings and get better vegetables. So every time I threw away an organic rest in the trash I thought I was throwing away a precious resource full of potential.
What a waste! And that’s right, my grandmother taught me the right thing and now I can finally put into practice her teaching thanks to my composter!
Unfortunately, where I currently live there is still no separate collection for the organic waste, which will end up in a landfill or burned. However, the municipality created an excellent initiative to overcome this lack: a composter is given for free to those who request it! The idea is so smart and simple that I recommend it to all the municipalities that don’t collect the organic separately because it allows to save money on the trash disposal and it makes the citizens more aware about their food waste.
People usually think that a vegetable waste is not garbage: since it is a product of nature, it will somehow return to the earth. But this is not always true. Inside a landfill, the organic waste, mixed with other non-biodegradable trash, can’t turn into compost. The result is that this material will release methane, which will be dispersed into the atmosphere, contributing to the greenhouse effect.
According to studies by the Italian Institute for Environmental Protection and Research, approximately 30% of the volume of waste sent to landfill is represented by organic materials. The use of compost, in addition to reducing this volume, would also solve the serious problem of degradation of agricultural soils, caused by the impoverishment of organic substances. Not only that: a natural humus, created from safe materials, it would drastically reduce the pollution caused by the use of chemical fertilizers.
Therefore domestic composting is an effective tool, its decomposition process is completely natural and it is easier to do than to explain.
The composter is a simple container that everyone can use, in which the optimal conditions are created and maintained so that the decomposition can be carried out quickly, away from the adverse weather. Inside it, there will be an environment rich in nourishment, heat, and moisture, where small insects, earthworms, bacteria, and microorganisms work to decompose the material and transform it into a natural fertilizer, within a few months.
First of all, the composter bin should be placed in a handy spot for waste disposal, on a solid and partially sunny ground. When you fill it for the first time, it is better to create a bed with mature compost or with small branches, straw, shavings of wood and dry leaves.
What can we put into the composter? Scraps of fruit and vegetables, vegetable leftovers (better raw), coffee grounds, tea filters, citrus peels, shredded eggshells, cut flowers and dried plants, green and dry leaves, grass clippings, branches, wood chips, garden waste, cardboard if not treated (perfect to reduce humidity), all possibly chopped.
It is necessary to pay attention to the right carbon/nitrogen ratio of the materials and to the humidity, in fact, an excess of the latter prevents the aeration of the pile. The carbon-rich waste is made of: leaves, branches, sawdust… and it is a source of energy for the life of micro-organisms. Nitrogen, on the other hand, is indispensable for their growth and multiplication and is found in kitchen food waste.
To maintain the right balance, it is sufficient to introduce equal proportions of wet and dry waste and to periodically mix the mass inside.
Water is essential for the activity of the microorganisms: if the heap is too dry, decomposition will slow down. In this case, it will suffice to water it.
On the other hand, when the heap is too wet, add dry material and also it is advisable to keep the lid partially open to allow moisture to evaporate. The classic symptom that makes it clear that something does not work is the stink: under normal conditions, in fact, the heap must emit a smell of undergrowth.
Compost is a material that houses life inside it, so it needs air. To facilitate aeration the bin must have many holes on the whole surface. Mine is drilled only at the base and around the opening, but it is provided with an internal cone with holes that let oxygen pass.
It is normal to note an increase in the temperature inside the composter: in the first phase, it can oscillate between 45° C and 55° C (113° F – 131° F), and then progressively decreases to ambient temperature.
Obviously, not all the waste decomposes at the same speed. Walnut or egg shells and woody parts, for example, need more time. Just chop and keep them in the container longer. Nature has its own time: a certain amount of waste must be introduced before the bio-reducers are created. However, there are bio-accelerators on the market that trigger the process and speed up the decomposition, or a similar result can be obtained by adding earthworms and mature compost, already rich in microorganisms.
It is easy to distinguish a mature compost from a not yet ready one: the first has the appearance of a dark, soft, spongy soil with the classic smell of undergrowth. It will be a valuable fertilizer, rich in nutrients, completely natural and safe because it is produced with only the waste chosen by ourselves!
It is not essential to have a garden to use a composter: there are smaller ones, suitable for a balcony, or technological bins, which can become kitchen cabinets. The most creative people can make it with their own hands, using few tools for a small expense.
So what are you waiting for? Let’s create the compost ourselves to nourish our plants!