Composting is a great way to not only be environmentally friendly, but also to help cut down the volume of rubbish your household creates. Less rubbish means fewer bins, which has to be a good thing. Not only that, but since you're going to be composting most of your food scraps, bins will smell less too. There are plenty of home composting options though, and you might be wondering which of these options is right for you, so let us help you out with a few explanations.
Why Compost at All?
Your first question might be why bother composting at all? After all, it's easy enough to just throw things in the bin, right? But there are some definite advantages to composting at home:
- Less rubbish and less stinky bins
- Less trash going into landfills
- The perfect fertiliser for your garden
- Less chemicals will need to be added to your garden
- The production of good bacteria which are essential for long term soil health
Composting is simple and takes very little time. Once you're set up there's little difference between tossing something in the rubbish and tossing it into the compost container. You can compost most organic things (foods) as well as many other household products, such as paper. When your bin is set up you'll simply need to “turn” the compost every few days (to mix everything up together) and then remove finished compost to put on your garden.
The Two Kinds of Composting
There are actually two different kinds of composting, so before you begin you'll want to decide which to go for:
- Soil Microbe Composting: this is probably the simplest way to compost. You throw things away, and a combination of damp and sunlight and air makes everything compost nicely down. Outside composting is nearly always done this way. If you choose to do this kind of composting inside you'll need to ensure that materials you throw away are damp and that there's enough heat.
- Vermicomposting: vermicomposting isn't for the faint of heart. First, you'll need to purchase special red worms that you then keep in a box and add food scraps too. The worms digest the rubbish and then produce compost. This is more popular for inside compost boxes. Don't worry though, worms don't escape as long as your compost box is solid!
As you probably noticed above you can compost both inside and outside, it's really up to you. With so many compost boxes on the market there are tons of choices. Specific compost boxes are made not only for the garden, but also for kitchens and even for balconies, so there's really no excuse not to compost!
What Kind of Box Do I Need?
Firstly, if you want to compost in your garden then you might not need a box at all. You can simply designate one corner of the garden as the compost pile and leave it at that (though some people do prefer to put scrap wood or pallets around the pile just to keep it contained). Be aware though that some councils and homeowner's associations don't allow open compost piles in certain areas, so do check before starting your compost pile!
There are also specially designed compost boxes. Obviously if you're composting inside you'll need a box, but even outside you might want to think about a container. The size of the box is really up to you and depends on how much space you have available. However there are some things that you should keep in mind when compost box shopping:
- The box should be big enough to keep up with your needs, but not so big as to leave too much air inside (the average family home should be fine with about 27 cubic feet)
- Portability: does the box have wheels, is it easy to move if necessary? This isn't a must, but many people prefer a portable box since it's easier to move the box to the area of the garden you wish to fertilise before unloading the compost
- Is there a bottom door? This makes unloading fresh compost easier. Some models even come with a tray at the bottom to make things even more convenient
- Does the box have a lid? If not, smells might escape and bother the neighbours!
- Are there plenty of air vents? You'll need circulation to keep things moving along.
- Is the box sturdy enough to withstand not only bad weather but also scavenging animals like foxes?
Indoor vs. Outdoor Composting
There are pros and cons of both indoor and outdoor composting. Indoor composting is very convenient, since your compost box is right there and you don't need to take rubbish outside. However, the worm situation does make some people squeamish, and soil microbe composting is much harder indoors.
Outdoor composting does away with smell and worm issues, but it does take up space in your garden. Plus, someone will need to take the compost outside at least once a day. The choice is really yours. Most beginners start with a small outdoor compost pile to see just how much compost they create before branching out into other areas.
Natural Compost Pile or Boxed Compost?
If you're going with outdoor composting then your next decision is whether or not to go natural or to buy a box. Again, there are pros and cons to each. Natural composting requires no initial investment and is very easy. However, as mentioned above it's not allowed in some areas, and a natural compost pile can get a bit smelly, especially in the summer.
Boxed compost requires that you spend a bit to get started. But once you've made that investment your compost is protected. There are fewer smells, fewer scavenging animals, and you don't have to see a compost pile every time you look out of the window!
Again, the decision is really yours. In this case, most beginners start with a small natural compost pile before leaping into making an investment into a compost box.
Home composting is a great idea, and it's so simple that the whole family can get involved. There's no better time to start than right now!