To celebrate Laudato Si’ Week (May 16-24) and the 5th anniversary of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’, Catholic News’ Agriculture columnist Rayanna Boodram outlines how to compost at home and live more sustainable.
Reap nutrients from waste!
Composting is a process by which organic matter is decomposed to form compost, a soil conditioner that is rich in nutrients. It utilises your kitchen and yard waste and turns it into fertiliser for plants. Composting has many advantages. Firstly, it is an inexpensive method of providing your plants with nourishing fertiliser. It enrichens soil, introduces beneficial bacteria and fungi which encourages the formation of humus (top soil) and provides your plants with all its essential macronutrients and micronutrients in one mix. Compost also improves soil structure, acts as a natural pesticide and suppress plant diseases.
Creating your own compost heap at home is very simple. You can start your heap in a container or on the ground. The ground (bare earth) is ideal because it allows worms and beneficial organisms to aerate the compost. Composting requires three main ingredients: brown materials, green materials and Water. Brown materials are materials that are rich in carbon such as leaves, twigs, fallen branches, dead flowers and old newspapers. Green materials are materials that are rich in nitrogen such as grass, weeds, kitchen waste (vegetable peels, eggshells, tea bags and fruit skins) and chicken manure. Do not include meat or bones, waste from pets, plastics or diseased plants into your compost heap. You will need a garden fork and a plastic sheet for covering the heap.
Initially, you will need to locate an area in your backyard that is dry, shaded and close to your water source. If creating the heap on the ground, start with a layer of twigs to ensure drainage and aeration. Next, add alternate layers of brown and green materials moistening it with water as each layer is added. As you collect your brown and green materials weekly, you can keep adding them to the heap. Cover the heap occasionally (to avoid over soak from rain) and once every week turn the heap with your garden fork to create aeration. As the weeks pass, you will notice the presence of earthworms which is an excellent sign that your compost is forming. Your compost will be ready when it appears soil-like with a dark brown to black colour. I hope this encourages you to start composting.
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