In the phase of one year, a mature tree will take up 22 kilograms worth of Carbon Dioxide from the atmosphere. During this process, the plants use the co2 to photosynthesis which generates the sugars and foods they need to grow. When digging homemade compost into the soil, this effectively reduces the number of methane emissions instantly because the waste has gone through an aerobic process. Methane is 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide and has been a huge contributor to the global greenhouse gas emissions in recent years. Landfill is just one of the bigger contributors to this global issue. Did you know that the average Australian household wastes over $1000 as a direct result of throwing away unused food each year? That is 20% of the food purchased, 1 out of every 5 bags of food bought, is thrown in the bin.
When organic waste is taken to landfill, it commonly goes through an anaerobic fermentation that produces CO2-e carbon dioxide greenhouse gases mostly in the form of methane because of the lack of oxygen present in the process. So how do we help? By composting at home, we can reduce green waste whilst at the same time eliminating methane. Home composting goes through an aerobic process which doesn’t produce CO2-e because the methane-producing microbes are not activated because of the presence of oxygen during this process.
Creating home compost can seem daunting and tricky; however, in actual fact, it is so very simple. One of the first steps to having a successful compost bin is to understand what it is all about.
What Is compost?
Compost is an organic material used to improve the soil structure, texture, and health, which helps retain moisture and promotes plants to grow, access vital nutrients and establish their roots in the soil. Benefits observed in soils which have been enriched with compost have seen improved production of earthworms, beneficial bacterias and fungi within the soil. These hard little workers help break down the organic matter into humus, nutrient-rich material that plants love.
So what is it composed of? Compost is made up of water, Carbon (brown) and Nitrogen (green). It is important to manage the amount of each ingredient that is being added. Too much Carbon will result in the slowing down of the decomposition, too much Nitrogen will result in a foul-smelling pile which is not useable. What is the method, the secret to success?
What are Carbon (Brown) components? Shredded paper, sawdust from untreated timbers, oaten hay, dried leaves, cardboard, wood chips and dry animal manures (not dog or cat). Nitrogen (green) components consist of lawn clippings, vegetable scraps, tea bags, coffee grounds, crushed eggshells, green plant cuttings or weeds and fresh animal manures. Adding material to the compost heap for every bucket of greens adds a bucket and a half of browns.
Often if a compost heap decomposition has slowed, there is a rotten-egg like-smell, it can be a direct result of the lack of oxygen in the mix. Decomposing organisms require adequate amounts of oxygen to fuel them to break down the waste materials. Without it, everything slows, making the whole process take a lot longer. Aerating the heap can kick everything back into gear. For bottomless bays and static bins using compost aerators once a week to every fortnight will – help allow oxygen to reach the bottom layers. Another method is to install a PVC pipe which has holes drilled all along the length and have this position in the centre of the heap. However, this method only works if the centre of the pipe is kept clear of any debris. Adding large tree branches or twigs to the bottom of the heap and adding some throughout the pile as it builds, will allow for oxygen to flow through the pile.
Keeping It Healthy
A compost heap that is well balanced will rarely attract vermin and require fixing. However, if a heap is plagued with unwanted visitors, such as mice or rats, this can be due to colder weather as they are looking for warmth or attractive, tasty ingredients that have been added to the mix. Never add meat, wheat and dairy waste to compost as this is likely to attract unwanted vermin to the garden and the compost pile. There are several ways to prevent rodents from nesting within the – piles some which we have already covered. The use of aviary wire is one method; another is to have a secure lid to the bin or heap. Most static bins will come with a solid heavy-duty plastic lid; however, installing a secure lid can be done with a tarp which is held down securely in the case of a bottomless bay. Ideally, the walls of the compost bin should also be secure with no holes or gaps. If ants are running wild through your compost pile, this is usually a good indication that it has become too dry.
Hosing the heap down lightly and aerating the pile will ensure everything gets back on track. If the heap has become too wet or too dry, the C:N ratio has also become unbalanced. If the mix is too wet, adding more Carbon (brown) matter such as paper or straw will improve the consistency. If too dry the remedy is to add more Nitrogen (green) matter such as lawn clippings or food scraps and a touch of water as mentioned.