What is Compost?
When plants die, they decompose with time, and the end product of this process is a dark crumbly material that is called ‘compost’, it has so many benefits to provide for soil; the more compost you make and use on the soil, the more porous it will be, and the more air and water it will retain in our dry weather.
Compost is a valuable source of mineral nutrients which all plants need such as nitrogen and phosphorus, as organic matter in the compost breaks down, these minerals and more are slowly released and made available to the plants.
In short, plants need three key things from soil: water, air, and nutrients, and compost helps to provide all three.
Compost is an inexpensive alternative to chemical fertilizers, and it is less likely to harm sensitive roots. Chemical fertilizers can be extremely harsh on plants. Chemical fertilizers can also leave heavy metals like lead and arsenic that can build up over time. A big shock of chemical fertilizer can also kill the very microbes that make soil fertile, having you to depend on using chemical fertilizers over and over again.
Don’t freak out if you’ve been using chemical fertilizers, or if you still plan to use them. The trick is to follow the instructions carefully, NEVER overapply, and keep helping your soil fertility by adding more compost and organic materials on a regular basis.
Compost also suppresses plant diseases and pests, reducing or eliminating the need for chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
It is a rich, free soil conditioner that will provide everything your plants will need.
Here in Kuwait we can get compost “cooked” faster than anywhere else thanks to the heat, so having the right ingredients from the start is key to having a quick, smooth composting process.
Compost ingredients are either rich in carbon or nitrogen.
Grass clippings or kitchen waste are Nitrogen rich, while brown, dry ingredients like paper, cardboard and dried plant waste are high in carbon.
The most important thing to understand is that your compost heap needs more carbon than nitrogen. Compare it to your own diet. Without even thinking about it, you aim to eat a balance of these two crucial elements: meat sauce and pasta: cheese and bread: burger and fries. You know that the perfect sandwich contains more bread than peanut butter and in a similar fashion your bin should contain more carbon than nitrogen.
The ideal C:N ratio is 3 to 1
What goes in
Garden waste, coffee grounds, old cotton, eggshells, floor sweepings, paper and cardboard, tea bags, grass clippings, vegetable waste.
What stays out
Cat or dog litter, dairy products, fish and meat waste, oil or fats.
If in doubt, leave it out.
Here is a Printable compost ingredients list of what to keep in and out of the bins, I hang one paper with the house cook and one in the dining kitchen near the trash, so my family members can take a look before throwing anything in the trash.
Composting is an aerobic process, which is a fancy way of saying it needs air. This is why the bins should have holes drilled all over them. They should look like they’ve been fired with a machine gun.
If there isn’t enough air, decomposition becomes anaerobic which is bad news for two reasons. First, it’s much slower, and second, it will not smell very nice.
So keep mixing and tossing for air circulation for faster compost!
The micro organisms that will do all the work need water, and so the ideal compost heap needs to be at least moist. But not too moist- too much water conflicts with the need for air, and there is no faster route to a smelly, anaerobic compost heap than water-logging.
Think about it like this, kitchen waste and grass clippings are at least 80% wet, so a heap made entirely of this would be too wet, which results in a lack of oxygen, you can solve this by adding paper waste or cardboard, which not only lowers the water content of the heap, but also soaks up the liquid and starts to decompose.
Even if you do everything wrong, you’ll still end up with decent compost. Just chop everything up and toss it in an aerated container, keep it moist and keep mixing as much as you can.
Don’t worry too much about it, and start composting, it’s so much easier than you think.