Aug 20, 2015

Home Composting

Dr Ashok K R

Home compost
The Black Gold
As I have written in my previous posts my method of setting up of terrace/home garden is time consuming and laborious, yet it is enjoyable. In this post I will share my experiences in mining ‘black gold’ from kitchen waste. Unlike ‘golden gold’ black gold is absolutely free of cost. There are hell lot of websites which teaches you numerous methods of composting. I have learnt a lot from them, and finally it is the practical experience which teaches the real composting. The method has to be standardised for each home, for each environment.

Composting Bin DIY
My first composter - teacher.
In the beginning I tried home composting using a small waste plastic container. With the help of a knife created some holes for aeration. Added kitchen waste with news paper bits. Within few days the entire container was filled with swimming maggots and garbage smell! Since the mouth of the container was small I couldn’t turn the pile regularly and my mistake was a festival for maggots. Luckily there were no flies and addition of some more news paper bits did the magic. Maggots number reduced to minimum. Though I didn’t get black gold, got some half digested compost which I added to pots.

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Since my initial experiment was ‘bit’ successful, decided to expand the composter. I tried composting in open trays. Just added kitchen waste mixed with dried leaves and covered the pile with a layer of soil to avoid attracting flies. Since the aeration is better in this open method composting process was quite fast. This method is suited only during summer. The first rain in summer ruined the entire setup as I had kept in open! Garbage smell and maggots subsided after a week!

Compost pile
My Present composter. Plastic container with holes.
I decided to steal a container from kitchen! My not so ill intention was noticed by my spouse and I dropped the idea of stealing! At last bought a new plastic container (with large mouth) for Rs 160/-. Drilled numerous holes. By this time I had collected 4 bags of dry leaves. Dry leaves are very much essential as it absorbs the moisture and the carbon of dry leaves compensates the nitrogen of kitchen waste. Though news paper bits can be used, it’s not completely natural. Better to collect dry leaves whenever possible. 
Compost pile
Kitchen waste with dry leaves
Depending upon the liquidity of the kitchen waste I add the dry leaves, mix it well and add it to the compost bin. 
DIY composter
Covering the top with newpapers will absorb extra liquid in the top layer.
On the top I will place two three layers of newspaper and close the lid. Since I broke the lid cover (over enthusiasm during gold mining!) now I use an old clay pot to cover it completely. In my experience turning the compost pile regularly is the important step in composting. Turning the pile once in three days will fasten the process and it gives us fair idea of our mistakes. More watery add more leaves, dried up add some water. Adding butter milk will hasten up the process. Once in ten/fifteen days empty the entire compost bin. We can observe the various stages of composting. Mix it again and add back. This method will ensure good aeration and will speed up the composting process.

Mining the Gold:

Sieving the compost
'Stolen' trays to mine Black Gold
This time I could not avoid. I ‘stole’ some plastic trays from kitchen. Of course my wife was not there at that time! One tray had larger holes and other smaller. I use tray with large holes to sieve the compost in first stage. 
half compost
After first stage of sieving.
The sieved product is processed with second tray with smaller holes and the black gold starts appearing! 
home made compost
The Black Gold
The larger chunks are added back to the compost bin. The product left during second stage of sieving is added to the clay pot for further composting. 
store the compost
Storage Period of Black Gold: 10 days.
The black gold is stored in a cardboard box. After a waiting period of ten days this black gold is added to the pots or used to prepare potting mix for new pots.
composting in clay pots
Larger chunks are added to clay pot for further composting.
maggots in compost
Only few maggots appear now. I am not scared of them!
adding compost to pots
Black Gold added to the grow bags.

Check list for starting composting: 

  1. Dried Leaves. (Use newspapers if you don’t have stock of dried leaves now. No excuses after next summer) 
    dried leaves for composting
    Don't forget to collect dried leaves during summer!
  2. Plastic container with holes. 
  3. Obviously Kitchen waste! 

Lack of time (are we really that busy!) might provoke you to purchase readymade composter bins. There are plastic container bins, Kambha and lot more available online. Lack of space could be a real problem. Bokashi method of composting using ecobin / smartbin is suggested by Organic Terrace Gardeners. Those bins can be kept in the kitchen and demands less work when compared to regular composters.
simple home made composter
My Simple composting setup