MenagerieComposing a composting hero
Composing a composting hero
March 28, 2012
March 28, 2012

Environmental problems have been around for a while. Many methods and ideas have been born since to solve such problems,.Most problems, however are difficult to abolish individually and in some cases, completely. Many countries and leaders have tried to implement ambitious policies and initiatives, but maybe the answer lies in something smaller.

This month, the Menagerie shows you a small, but helpful way to give back to the environment; get ready to get your hands dirty as we go composting.

Composting is the process in which biodegradable materials are combined and left to decompose; the resulting material, eventually makes soil more fertile for plant growth. It is a commonly-used method in farms all over the Philippines, and it can be done in the comfort of your own home.

Composing the Compost

A compost pile can be made out of every day materials people tend to overlook. A typical compost pile contains a mix of grass or lawn clippings, hay, kitchen wastes (such as fruit and vegetable peels, tea bags, and eggshells), leaves, straw, wood chips or sawdust, and leftovers.

It should not include any chemically-treated products, animal wastes, and non-biodegradable materials because these will attract pests, or spread poison within the compost. Mang Dabs*, a man from the AG Farm* in Cavite, says that they add husks of old coconut shells to their compost piles for more fertile soil.

How to Compost

Set up the compost bin in a yard of any size. Find a convenient and sunny, but well-drained place. The bin is not imperatively necessary for composting, but it will be much easier if you have a container to keep the pile in one place.

The cheapest and most practical method is to build a container from a heavy-duty garbage can or pail with a tight-fitting lid. This type of bin is good for homes in residential areas. The side of the bin must have holes to stimulate air flow in the container. You may also add straws to create pockets of air; it is a necessary component for composting. Therefore, try to close only the lid.

Place all your chosen ingredients into the bin. Be sure to start from the bottom. Place dried twigs or stalks first as they help the air circulate. More garden soil may be added to lessen, or eliminate any unpleasant odor.

Then, pile on the dried out, brown materials. Keep your pile moist for the organisms, which decompose the organic matter in your compost. Throw away stagnant water to prevent the breeding of mosquitoes.

The moister, green materials such as tea bags and grass clippings come next. Sprinkle some soil around your compost. Add more dried-out materials to absorb the excess moisture and to keep the nitrogen balanced.

Green-materials are necessary to make a balanced compost; it also prevents the proliferation of methane gas, which is a greenhouse gas. Add more layers of garden soil and pieces of sticks and twigs to your compost if it gets too deep to ensure good airflow.

Leave the compost alone for two weeks; turn it around with a pitchfork or any other instrument after. By doing this, heat is dispersed, which is good for the microorganisms. Remember to mix the pile every two weeks.

Things to consider

Composting is no easy task. It takes commitment and effort to make a successful compost pile. Aling Leila*, the owner of AG Farm*, says “Kinasasanayan ang amoy ng composting (You get used to the smell of composting).” The decaying materials in your compost pile emits an acquired stench so keep your compost pile as far away as possible from your laundry and cooking area.

“Mas madali rin kung magkakasama yung pare-pareho,” she said. “Mas mabilis yung pagbulok nila pag ganoon.” (It is better to put the same materials together. It makes their decomposition quicker.)

The compost materials will decompose eventually, though at varying rates. If you want to hasten the composting process, break the larger pieces into smaller pieces. Unwanted odors are inevitable and often come from bones or meat scraps in the compost. They can, however, be reduced or eliminated by covering any new additions to the pile with dry grass clippings or mulch. Adding lime can also neutralize the odor.

Flying insects such as fruit flies will occasionally gather around your compost. Covering any exposed fruit or vegetable matter will prevent this. The soil underneath a compost bin becomes enriched as the nutrients filter down during constant watering. You can place the bin on a piece of land you plan to use as a vegetable patch or a flowerbed.

Benefits of composting

Composting helps create fresher, more fertile soil to produce healthy plants. Use it to start that rose garden you have always wanted; and grow or start up your vegan diet by starting your own vegetable patch. It will reduce your carbon footprint—you would be saving the world, a small step at a time.

It will not just benefit you, but it will benefit everyone else. Imagine the world if everyone helped out and had their own little compost pile – helping make a cleaner, greener Mother Earth.

*Names have been changed to protect identities.