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How Composting Helps the Environment

In the current climate, where many people are trying to live more environmentally friendly lives, composting is experiencing a huge rise in popularity. When we think about it, this isn’t really surprising. After all, what is the downside to recycling our organic waste, reducing our landfill, and producing a natural plant fertilizer in the process all at the same time?

Here’s how composting helps the environment:

  • It reduces the amount of waste going to landfill. 
  • It also reduces the amount of chemicals being used in our gardens.
  • It reduces greenhouse gas emissions and the need for traditional fertilizers and pesticides. 
  • It helps to make soil and the natural environment healthier.

In order to better understand how composting helps the environment, we take a deep dive into the world of composting. This includes looking at what it is, what it can be used for, and exactly why it is so good for our gardens and the environment. The article will address the following:

  • What is composting?
  • What can compost be used for?
  • How can I use compost in my garden?
  • How does composting help the environment?
  • Why is compost good for my garden?
  • What waste can I compost?
  • What waste can I not compost?
  • How can I incorporate composting into my recycling routine?
  • How can I start my own compost?

What Is Composting?

Composting is a process that turns organic material into a nutrient-rich product that can be used to enhance soil and improve plant growth. Essentially, it takes natural materials like vegetable scraps and plant cuttings, these decompose through natural processes, and the result is valuable compost. 

Organic matter will decompose naturally, although some things obviously break down quicker than others. We can speed up this process by creating a composting system that provides the right conditions for these materials to decompose quickly, providing us with a substance that we can put back into the Earth.

What Can Compost Be Used For?

Compost is an extremely versatile material with many uses. It is most commonly seen as a type of plant food, although its value goes far beyond this sole purpose. In today’s world, it is playing an important role in backyard gardening, commercial landscaping, and organic farming.

The following is a list of things that compost can be used for:

A natural fertilizer

The most common use for compost is the fertilization of plants. It is often chosen as an alternative to chemical fertilizers as it supports plant growth without any of the nasty chemicals. Compost is a completely natural material that contains a lot of nutrients, giving plants the food they need to grow and thrive.

Improving the health and structure of soil

Compost is hugely beneficial when it comes to the health of the soil. It helps to manage the water levels, making soil better able to retain moisture but also creating a natural drainage system. 

Dry soil is not a good place to grow plants, yet it is a common issue. When soil gets too dry, a wax layer forms that creates a type of barrier. This prevents water from soaking in. Compost has microbes that can break through this layer, helping it to absorb water once again. 

Compost also aerates the soil, helping oxygen to make its way into the ground. This, in turn, helps to create drainage channels that allow the water to run through, making its way to all of the plants but not drowning them.

A natural pesticide

Compost is a good deterrent of weeds and other pests, yet it doesn’t contain the chemicals that many pesticides do. It helps to stop weeds from growing, creating more space and nutrients for plants. This provides them with the environment they need to flourish.

Improving the ecosystem

Soil is a part of a complex ecosystem, with many different components playing a particular role. Soil, worms, microbes, and plants all live together in this food cycle, and compost helps to enhance the process and support this balance. It is effective in creating an environment where all of these things can exist and operate functionally.

Preventing erosion

This use is not widely known, but composting has been used to prevent soil erosion. When mixed with soil, it can support the structure and help it from falling away. For this same reason, compost has also been used to construct new wetland areas.

Covering landfill

Finally, compost has been used to cover landfill. While this will not help much in the decomposition process when materials like plastic are involved, it can help to support the soil around it and block out the odors of decomposing waste.

How Can I Use Compost in My Garden?

Compost can be added directly to your garden beds to provide much-needed nutrients. If you are new to composting, there are several different ways this can be done to facilitate the growth of your plants.

Spread it like mulch

An easy way to add compost to your garden is to simply spread it like mulch. It is much more effective in enhancing plant growth and has more value when it comes to improving the soil than traditional mulch, so it is a good option. Tip some compost around your plants and spread it out until it creates an even layer throughout your garden. The compost layer should be no thicker than 40cm. 

Use it to build a garden bed

Surround your plants with goodness by creating an entire garden bed out of compost. Create an outline where you want the garden to be, then dig out the soil. Replace it with compost, as this will be your new base. Allow this to sit for a couple of weeks to ensure all organic matter has completely decomposed, then add your plants. 

Don’t worry about using too much compost. This product, if homemade, is completely organic and has huge benefits for your plants. They will be surrounded by a healthy environment that will help them to grow. 

Create a liquid fertilizer

If you are looking for a substitute for traditional chemical fertilizers, try creating your own using compost. Get a bucket and add in some fertilizer. Then add some water to create a liquid mixture with a thick consistency. This can be poured directly into your gardens around your plants. It will soak into the soil, sending nutrients to the roots where they are most beneficial.

The best part about creating your own compost fertilizer is that it can be recycled. If you have leftovers, simply add it back into your compost bin. It will continue to work with the system and decompose organic matter, and next time you need fertilizer, you can just grab some compost out of the bin and make some more. 

How Does Composting Help the Environment?

Compost is known for being an environmentally-friendly choice when it comes to recycling, but you may be wondering exactly how it helps the environment. There are several reasons why we should be participating in composting. These include:

Reduces landfill size

The modern world has a serious waste problem, and people are continuously looking for ways to reduce their impact. Composting is one way we can do this. Rather than adding our organic waste such as vegetable scraps and plant trimmings to regular landfills, we can take this matter and recycle it through composting. The composting process is natural and will reduce the amount of waste that is sitting in the landfills.

Reduces pollution

By composting organic waste as opposed to sending it to landfill, we are also reducing pollution. When organic matter sits in a landfill, it naturally begins to decompose. This process, however, is not clean as it is mixed in with too much other rubbish, and this creates an environment that lacks oxygen. 

Without airflow, this organic matter produces methane gas as it decomposes. Methane gas is much more potent than carbon dioxide can have a detrimental impact on the environment. When we dispose of organic matter through compost, we do so in a clean matter that does not emit these negative gases into the atmosphere.

Feeds the soil

Good soil is required to grow plants, including the fruit and vegetables that we eat. As we continue to produce food, we keep taking from the environment. 

Compost is a way to give back and ensure that the soil has the required nutrients to keep the ecosystem running effectively. It balances out the cycle: we take natural products from the Earth, break them down, then return them to the soil. This entire process minimizes our impact and helps the environment. 

Enhances the soil

Compost makes the soil better in several ways. For one, it helps to loosen it up and improve airflow. Aeration is important as plants need oxygen, as do many components of the ecosystem. It helps soil to retain and drain water. By doing this, water is held in the soil where it is needed most: the roots of plants. This helps create a natural irrigation process, meaning less water is needed for crops. 

Adding compost to soil also enhances the soil by creating an environment where worms, bugs, and microbes can live. These are all important in maintaining a healthy ecosystem that keeps everything functioning. It is important for the environment that we maintain this balance. Compost can also help to prevent soil against erosion from water and wind.

Reduces the need for chemicals

Compost is a natural fertilizer. If we use this in our gardens and on our crops, it reduces the need for other fertilizers that are likely to contain harmful chemicals. This natural substance is extremely rich in nutrients, containing a whole range of things (potassium, phosphorous, nitrogen) that aid in the growth of plants. 

By minimizing our use of chemical fertilizers, we can minimize the detrimental impact they are having on the environment. One particular problem is chemicals finding their way to water sources and contaminating them. Chemical fertilizers tend to cause a certain type of algae to grow, which reduces the amount of oxygen in the water. This impacts life in the water, making it difficult for fish and other animals to survive. 

As you can see, composting helps the environment in several ways. The actual process is environmentally friendly as it reduces pollution, but the end product is also natural and can enhance plant growth without any nasty chemicals. 

Why Is Compost Good for My Garden?

Compost is good for the garden for all of the above reasons. It enhances the soil, creating an environment that attracts worms and facilitates the existence of microbes. This means a healthier area for plants to grow. It also feeds the plants directly, supplying nutrients that plants can access whenever they need.

Additionally, compost is a natural pesticide and stops weeds from entering the garden space. This means your plants don’t have to fight for resources and can continue to grow without competition. 

Compost is good for your garden because it creates a positive environment as well as feeds them directly. Home compost is completely organic, so you know that no harmful chemicals are present and being transferred to your plants.

What Waste Can I Compost?

In general, all organic matter can be composted. However, there are a few restrictions. Compost materials are categorized according to the following: green matter and brown matter. 

Green matter is typically wet materials like vegetable scraps and coffee grounds. This type of organic matter is rich in nitrogen, which allows it to decompose quickly. Other examples of green matter include lawn clippings, tea bags, and all fruit and vegetable waste, including peel, seeds, and cores. All of these things compact easily and retain their moisture.

Brown matter refers to dry organic materials that don’t tend to become wet and slimy. Instead, they maintain pockets of air between them when added to compost. Examples of brown matter include sticks and twigs, dry leaves, hay, egg cartons, cardboard, and newspaper. 

The best compost has a mix of both brown and green organic waste. This will ensure a good mix of oxygen and moisture, providing optimum conditions for decomposition. That being said, it can be difficult to get the right balance. The jury is still out on what exact ration works the best. 

Some experienced composters suggest 1 part green matter to 1 part brown matter, although other people’s opinions vary significantly. The safest option is to build your compost with more brown matter. If it is too dry, you can always add more water or more green waste. It is more difficult to dry it out if it gets too wet, and compost on the drier side is less likely to generate an unpleasant odor.

What Waste Can I Not Compost?

There are a few types of waste that cannot be composted, some are obvious and others not so much. For instance, it seems pretty logical that we cannot put materials like glass or plastic in the compost. These are materials that do not break down easily and would certainly impact the organic nature of compost.

On the other hand, some people are not aware that you should not put animal products into your compost. Meat, bones, and dairy products (including cheese and yogurt) are not suited to the composting process. It will upset the balance of the system and make the whole thing smell.

Other items that should not go into the compost are treated or diseased plants, as well as animal droppings. Plant trimmings that have been treated with chemicals or possess a disease are not good for compost as it will stop you from being able to use it in your garden. 

The chemicals and disease will actually spread to your plants and harm them, rather than helping them to grow. Animal dropping should not be used for similar reasons. They may contain pests or diseases that will impact your gardens. This is especially important if you plan on using your compost for your vegetable patch!

How Can I Incorporate Compost Into My Recycling Routine?

At the moment, the best option to get involved with composting is to set up your own compost system. There are commercial compost plants operating in some areas, although these are not widespread. As recycling continues to evolve, we are likely to see these become more common, however for the time being, it is best to create your own compost as this is the most effective way to get rid of your organic waste.

If you are looking for compost for your garden, you have a couple of options. You can use the output from your home composting system. That way, you know exactly what materials have been used to create the compost and have an ongoing source to provide you with it. This is the most cost-effective way to utilize compost.

Alternatively, you can choose to purchase compost for use in your garden. Most hardware stores and garden supply centres will sell compost either in bags or in bulk. If you only have a small garden and therefore only need a small amount, bags might be the best option for you. They can be transported in a car and don’t take much room to store. 

On the other hand, if you have a large garden area that you tend to, you are likely to need a lot of compost. In this case, it is better to buy compost in bulk. You can place an order, and a truck will deliver it to your location.

If you choose to buy compost, make sure that you are getting value for your money. There are some instances where compost is not of high quality. If it contains rubbish, you are entitled to ask for a refund as this defeats the purpose of organic plant fertilizer. 

Also, be wary of compost that has actually been mixed with soil first. This makes compost stretch further (a good thing for businesses). However, it diluted the effectiveness of the material. Compost that has been mixed with soil does not have the same strength of nutrients as it does if it is solely the one substance.

How Can I Start My Own Compost?

Starting a home compost is quite simple and doesn’t require a huge monetary investment. The following steps will help you to set up a home compost so that you can play your role in helping the environment:

Find a suitable place for your compost

Begin by doing some initial planning. Where exactly are you going to keep your compost bin? The best location is one that is exposed to sun and natural moisture. The warm, wet conditions will create the perfect environment for organic matter to decompose. This will speed up the process and provide you with high-quality compost more quickly.

Collect materials

Collect everything you need to create a compost. 

Firstly, get a compost bin. The size of this will depend on your specific situation. Consider the space you have to store it, the amount of organic waste your household produces, and how much garden you have to use the compost. 

Next, find a piece of material or tarpaulin that can act as a lid for your compost bin. Then gather up a range of green and brown organic waste. You will need enough to fill most of the bin. Also, collect some dry, coarse organic matter like hay or sticks. Finally, make sure that you have water, soil, and manure.

Create a bottom layer

Once you have your bin and all of your materials, begin by laying a 10cm thick layer of your coarse material. Hay, sticks, or something similar will create a foundation for your compost. These materials allow water and air to come through into the mixture.

Add layers

Next, begin adding layers of waste. Try to alternate between green and brown organic matter. Make sure that the waste covers the entire area and is about 15cm in thickness. 

If a layer is too dry, add some water as you go to ensure there is a consistent moistness throughout the entire bin. You will also need to sprinkle the soil and manure over each layer before moving on to the next layer of green or brown matter. The soil and manure create heat that facilitates the decomposition process, so you must remember to include it.

Cover the bin

When you have completed all of your layers, cover the bin with the tarpaulin or piece of carpet. This will help the different components to combine, resulting in the break down of the organic matter.

Leave to sit

Once the lid is on, put the compost in its space and leave it to sit. You should not touch it for about three months. During this time, the material will interact as the organic matter decays. 

Aerate the compost

When it has been sitting for three months, open the lid. Take out all of the compost and then place it back in the container. This will aerate the mixture. Having oxygen present throughout the compost is extremely important and helps to create drainage systems. Put it aside to sit for another three months.

Use in your garden

When the wait is over, your compost will be ready to use. The end result will be high quality, nutrient-rich substance that can be added straight to your plants.

Final Thoughts

Composting helps the environment in a number of ways. For one, it reduces the amount of waste going to landfill, and that can only be a good thing. Secondly, the process of composting is better for the environment than allowing organic matter to decay in the landfill. When this happens, methane gas is produced, and this is more harmful to the environment than carbon dioxide. Composting is a clean, natural way to get rid of our organic waste. 

Finally, composting produces compost, a product that provides plenty of value to the environment. It improves the quality and structure of the soil, which enhances the ecosystem. This, in turn, provides an environment where organisms and plants can thrive. 

Overall, composting allows us to give back what we are taking from the Earth. We eat fruits and vegetables, which takes away nutrients from the soil and upsets the balance. By decomposing this material and returning it to our gardens, we are simply placing the nutrients back that we took in the first place. There is no better way to help the environment than to engage in sustainable practices such as this.