9 Reasons to Start Composting (and how to start)
Cheekily referred to as “black gold,” composting is one of the best things you can do for both your garden and the environment. By composting, you’ll create nutrient-rich humus (the black sludge that comes out of your composter) that helps your plants retain moisture, keeps food out of landfills, and overall reduces your methane footprint.
Diverting organic food scraps from landfills is a great practice all-around, but like anything, starting a project like this is always the hardest part. Plus, for the many of us who live in apartments, finding space to compost can seem almost impossible.
In this article, we’ll dive into the nine reasons why you should start composting, how to start, and how to compost if you live in an apartment.
#1 – Keeps Organic Matter Out of Landfills
Did you know that millions of pounds are spent each year on landfill waste management? Or that only about 10-12% of all waste that ends up in landfills cannot be recycled or composted?
Those are big numbers, and when talking about organic waste in particular, studies estimate that about one quarter of all landfill waste could have been composted to create nutrient-rich soil.
Setting up a home composting system is an easy way to reduce your landfill footprint.
#2 – Creates Nutrient-Rich Soil
If you have a garden, yard, or access to farmers who you can give your compost to, then you’ll quickly find that composting creates nutrient-rich soil that will almost immediately benefit the health and quality of your plants. In particular, compost releases small doses of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus into the soil.
Additionally, this nutrient-rich humus will help soil retain moisture, suppress disease, and combat soil erosion.
On that note, if you’re looking to incorporate more nutritious veggies into your life, then take a look at these 5 flavorsome fall vegetables.
#3 – Neutralizes Soil PH
Speaking of soil, adding compost to your plant beds will also help neutralize soil that has become too alkaline (acidic).
More often than not, compost is aerobic, meaning that in order to break down the matter, the bacteria hard at work need oxygen. Oxygen can be added to compost simply by turning, or aerating, it (most composting boxes have this feature) or you can mix it on your own (we’ll get into this more in the how to compost section).
If your compost is deprived of oxygen, then anaerobic bacteria could take over, causing the acid content to be too high for most plants to thrive with.
#5 – Helps Air Quality
When used as an alternative to burning yard waste such as leaves and twigs, try composting the organic matter instead. Burning yard waste can send harmful chemicals into the air, leading to poor air quality. Composting provides a much lung-friendlier alternative.
#6 – Saves You Money
If you’re someone who regularly gardens or farms, then composting could save you a pretty penny in the long run. Humus can be used as a nutrient-rich alternative to pricier chemical fertilizers and artificial soil enhancers.
Not only will composting help keep your garden organic, but given that you already have the fertilizer in hand in the form of food scraps, you don’t have to spend another dime.
#7 – Reduces Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Did you know that organic matter in landfills produces methane? A gas directly linked to climate change, landfills have been found to be one of the biggest emitters of methane gas, a statistic that could be easily reduced by home composting.
Further, though commercial composting is an option when home composting is not, commercial composting does tend to use oil-reliant machines that speed-up the oxidation process, causing organic matter to break down more quickly. While it’s a Plan B, if possible, home composting is always the greener option.
#8 – Helps Biodiversity
Bacteria, fungi, insects, worms, and even birds love a good composted soil. This is because only does composting provide a ton of nutrients for plant life, but it also gives great nutrients to other creatures out in nature (creatures that can be good for your plants, no less).
#9 – Creates a Lush, Healthy Garden
If you have a garden at home, then I probably don’t need to tell you that composting will help you have one of the most lush, healthy gardens in all the land. Composting significantly helps plant growth, leaving your gardens absolutely thriving.
For more home gardening tips, check out this article about growing your own vegetables from home.
How to Start Composting
Though a bit of a learning curve, composting can be an easy, turnkey process once you get the ball rolling. Here’s how to start:
- Dig a hole a few inches deep into bare earth, and lay down straw or twigs. Then, create a compost pile on top. Not having a barrier between the ground and your compost will allow worms, bacteria, and other beneficial critters to climb inside and aerate your compost.
- Add your organic compost matter in layers, alternating between moist and dry. Check out this list of food items you can add to your compost heap. Wood ashes are great to use as a dry layer.
- Cover your compost heap with anything you have — if you have a dedicated compost bin then that’s great, or you can use wood, plastic, or metal. Covering your compost helps it to retain moisture and prevents it from being overwatered.
- Aerate your compost every few weeks by turning it. This can be done with a pitchfork or a shovel.
- Once your compost has been established, add new food scraps to it regularly by mixing them into the heap — a rotating compost tumbler is a quick way to do this.
- When your compost has turned into humus, test the PH and then add it to your garden beds.
For a full, detailed guide on how to start an outdoor composting heap, check out this article.
How to Compost if You Live in an Apartment
Live in an apartment and want to start composting (without any crazy smells)? Well then there are options for you! Here are three ways to start apartment composting:
Way #1 – Vericomposters
For those of you who don’t mind having a worm farm in your apartment, worm composters (also known as vermicomposters) are one of the best options to compost indoors. These worm-farms don’t require aeration as the worms do that work for you, so all you’ll need to do is feed the worms regularly with more organic matter and make sure they’re living in the right conditions.
This article is great for more information on worm composting.
Way #2 – Tumblers
If you happen to have a balcony attached to your apartment, then having a compost tumbler could be the option for you. A fully-sealed contraption, compost tumblers work with the heat generated from your organic matter. They do require aeration, but most compost tumblers come with a handle to easily do this on the fly.
Also, because these tumblers are sealed, you won’t have to deal with smells or pests.
Way #3 – Kitchen digesters
If you have the counter space, then a kitchen digester can be an easy way to get nutrient-rich fertilizer out of your organic matter. Though not technically compost, these machines essentially heat and digest your kitchen waste into a fertilizer that you can then use in your plant pots or to give away.
What should apartment dwellers do with compost?
Speaking of which, those of us who live in apartment buildings generally don’t “need” compost matter for anything. We can only have so many houseplants that need fertilizing, so what do we do with all the humus that we create?
Give it away, that’s what! If your city doesn’t have a compost pick-up service, then contact local farmers or community gardens in your area — chances are they won’t refuse a good batch of compost. It’s a win-win!
That’s it for my article on the benefits of composting, how to start a compost, and how to compost if you live in an apartment! There is obviously so much more to this topic that I wasn’t able to include in this article, so let us know in the comments if you have any composting tips and tricks!