Composting allows us to use this waste, which becomes raw material, to produce a fair amount of excellent humiferous soil, so that the time taken for the “cleaning” of our garden can reward us, also offering us good fertilizer for our garden and our garden.
In fact, the appropriate storage and treatment of branches, leaves, grass, food scraps, fruit and vegetable skins, allows bacteria, microorganisms and small insects to feed on them, to develop and decompose the organic substances present in our waste, after a few months the organic material so treated will become a mass of microorganisms and nutrients, called compost, similar to the humus that we can find in the undergrowth: a soft soil, well aerated and rich in minerals, excellent for our crops.
First of all it is necessary to choose the type of composter It is therefore necessary to evaluate both the time we usually spend on the greenery of our house and the amount of waste that our garden usually produces.
The heap: if our garden is large we will have the possibility of forming a heap for composting, or a small area, possibly rectangular, bounded by a fine mesh net or a lattice. It is advisable to cover the compost heap with non-woven fabric or jute sheets in order to avoid the direct impact of the sun’s rays and also to limit the supply of water due to the rains.
Composter: this is a bell, often made of plastic, with an upper opening for the insertion of the material to be composted, and a lateral opening, or a shutter, to pick up the mature compost or to check the progress of composting. Some types of composter are distributed by the municipalities, which also guarantee, to those who use them, a discount on the rates for waste disposal.
Bins: if the material we wish to compose is small, or if we wish to compose in a small space, we can use drums, or boxes, suitably perforated, to allow better ventilation, and equipped with a lid.
In any case, it is advisable for the composting containers to be without a bottom, or with a bottom consisting of a grid, and that they are placed in contact with the ground: in this way from the soil of our garden will migrate to the earthworms compost and other insects that accelerate the decomposition. They should also be fitted with a lid, so that the rain does not alter the contents.
To accelerate decomposition it is also better to grind the material you want to compose, so that it is more easily digestible by bacteria and insects.
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Hot” means the composting of a large quantity of waste material, at least one cubic metre, which, as it decomposes, produces heat; at the centre of the mass of organic material, the temperature can reach 60°C.
Position: in order to compose large quantities of material in the best possible way, we have to follow a few precautions, so as not to risk that our composter fills up with rotting and foul-smelling material.
To avoid that our compost heats up too much or dries up, it is advisable to place the composter in a semi-shaded place, possibly in an area covered by the branches of a deciduous plant: in this way we will also obviate the possibility that in winter the compost cools down too much.
Aeration: for bacteria and microorganisms to propagate in our waste, it is good that the presence of oxygen is high, otherwise in their place would produce too many anaerobic bacteria, typical of rotting, which produce in our compost bad smell and toxic compounds; for this reason it is appropriate that the first layer of the heap, or the bottom of the container, is made up of branches and leaves roughly chopped, so that the compost remains raised from the ground.
It is also a good idea to mix the wettest waste, such as grass, with drier waste so that the material in the composter does not compact too quickly, preventing the air from circulating freely.
To improve the aeration and mixing of the material inserted in the composter, it is advisable to intervene periodically, at least 2-3 times in the first two months, moving and turning the compost mass with a pitchfork; however, if we should notice a rapid compaction, at least in the first weeks, it is better to drill the aeration holes in the compost with a stick.
Moisture: for the correct proliferation of bacteria in the compost is necessary the right degree of humidity, it is therefore good to ensure a good presence of water, watering the material inserted in the composter, or ensuring a good amount of wet material, such as grass or waste from the cleaning of fruits and vegetables. In a dry compost and a compost soaked in water the bacteria die and our composting fails.
To ensure the right degree of humidity of the compost is sufficient to hold in your hand a handful of material to be composted, this should only moisten the palm of our hand, if it drips we will hurry to insert dry material in the composter, such as sawdust, if it appears to be free of moisture is good to water it, or introduce strips of paper moistened.
Carbon/Nitrogen Ratio: to ensure good decomposition, it should be remembered that bacteria proliferate better in a very carbon-rich substrate, found in wood, straw and paper; however, it is necessary to have the right nitrogen content, for example in kitchen waste, which must be present in much smaller quantities than in Carbon.
The best way to make sure you maintain the right Carbon/Nitrogen ratio is to be careful to mix as many waste materials as possible, avoiding the preponderance of one over the other.
Enzymes: to ensure that the decomposition takes place in the wife of the modes we can also add to the composter enzymes, commercially available, which accelerate the maturation of the compost improving the “digestion” by bacteria and at the same time eliminating any unpleasant odors.
If we have little space, but want to try our hand at composting, we can also do it on a balcony or in the cellar, in small containers, will be cold composting, for which it is useful to follow all the precautions of the hot one, reminding us to be very careful with moisture, but also not to introduce seeds of weeds or diseased plants, to avoid then spread with our compost diseases and seeds.
We can also make use of the precious help of earthworms: simply place them in a well-ventilated container covered with dampened sheets of paper, leftovers from the kitchen and a little bit of earth; place the container in a shady place and they will help us to decompose the organic material, generating an excellent humus for our pots.
Types of composters
Materials that can be inserted into a composter
– Branches and leaves, properly shredded.
– Grass, possibly dry, to prevent it from over-compacting the material in the composter.
– Eggshells, possibly chopped, so that they are decomposed more easily.
– Leftovers of cooked food; it is advisable to add a small amount of it, to avoid attracting mice or flies.
– Leftovers of fruit and vegetables, peelings, scraps.
– Dried flowers.
– Weeds removed from the garden; in order to avoid that the seeds remain alive in the compost, it is advisable to insert them in the centre of the mass to be composted, so that they reach the highest temperatures.
– Coffee and tea grounds.
– Paper, possibly not printed.
– Wood ashes, in small quantities.
– Pine needles, reminding us that they lower the ph of the compost.
Material not to be placed in the composter
– Any kind of plastic material.
– Coal ash.
– Tetrapak containers.
– Printed paper, although sometimes some newspaper sheets may be useful.
– Aluminium and metals in general.
– Bones; the time it takes to decompose them is too long.
– Synthetic or dyed fabrics.
Composting: How to use the composter
After 6-9 months our compost is mature and can be used by removing it from the side of the container, which we will continue to fill, remembering to stir every now and then the new material inserted.
The soil we will get is fertile and smells of undergrowth (if it smells badly something went wrong in composting!), we can use it as a fertilizer for garden plants, for pots, in the holes of new plants to be planted. If we are particularly hasty we can begin to use the compost when it is still fresh, after 2-3 months, although its quality is certainly lower than that of the mature compost.
Before using the compost for the purpose we prefer, it is best to sift it with a sieve with fairly wide meshes, so as to avoid distributing pieces of wood or lumps of compost for our garden that have not yet decomposed perfectly.