Monday, October 24, 2011



Composting is the decomposition of plant remains and other once-living materials to make an earthy, dark, crumbly substance that is excellent for adding to houseplants or enriching garden soil. It is the way to recycle your yard and kitchen wastes, and is a critical step in reducing the volume of garbage needlessly sent to landfills for disposal. It's easy to learn how to compost.
Composting is not a new idea. In the natural world, composting is what happens as leaves pile up on the forest floor and begin to decay. Eventually, the rotting leaves are returned to the soil, where living roots can finish the recycling process by reclaiming the nutrients from the decomposed leaves. Composting may be at the root of agriculture as well. Some scientists have speculated that as early peoples dumped food wastes in piles near their camps, the wastes rotted and were terrific habitat for the seeds of any food plants that sprouted there
How to do composting?
Step 1: Locate the compost in a sheltered, level area of the garden with good drainage and access. Start by digging up the soil to aid drainage and encourage earthworms into the compost.
Step 2: First add a 100–150mm layer of coarse organic material to ensure good drainage and ventilation.
Step 3: Next add equal amounts by volume of ‘green’ and ‘brown’ organic material, in layers. Fluff and partially mix materials and add water as you. The compost needs to be moist and should have the consistency of a squeezed out sponge. Cover the compost with the lid of the compost bucket.
Step 4: Within a day or two, the material may heat up and start to shrink. To speed up the process, try adding some more 'green' material.
Step 5: Continue to build the compost heap by adding ‘green’ and ‘brown organic material and water if necessary.
Step 6: When the bin, enclosure or heap is full, tightly fit the lid. Leave the compost to mature. This can take several weeks to months to occur.
Step 7: Turn the pile once a week to move material from the outside of the pile in. Turning also keeps the pile from compacting, which reduces airflow and slows down decomposition.
You should have finished compost in about two months. You`ll know your compost is finished when it no longer heats up and you can`t identify any of the original materials. You can also build a very basic, passive compost system by simply piling up leaves, grass clippings and other yard waste into a pile in a secluded corner. The compost will be ready when the original ingredients are unrecognizable, usually 6-12 months.
Conditions required for good composting:
             Air and water
The moisture content should be around 40-60%.  Composting microbes are aerobic; they cannot perform their work unless they are provided with air.
             A favorable temperature
Low temperatures slow down the decomposition process while warmer ones speed it up. As far as our Mauritian climate is concerned, temperature may have little influence but should not be ignored either.
             The right ingredients
A balance in ingredients in the compost pile means there is a proper mixture of browns (dead leaves for example) and greens (green leafy materials).
Materials that can be use for composting:
The best compost needs a good balance of four basic ingredients: greens + browns + water + air
Greens include kitchen vegetable and fruit scraps, vegetable peelings, tea leaves, coffee grounds, soft garden debris, lawn clippings. Browns include paper, sawdust, straw, leaves, cereal boxes, cardboard, napkins, tree clippings, woody materials like cabbage stalks. Note: Food scraps and garden material compost much quicker when chopped into smaller pieces. Paper products can be ripped into small pieces and soaked in water before composting.
Never compost:
Weeds such as oxalis, live twitch docks, large pieces of wood, bones, inert materials like tins, glass , plastic or diseased plant material. Meat, fish, fats or cooking and salad oils - these may create fly, rodent and odour problems, toxic material. 

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