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Turn garbage into gold

By Hosea Omole | June 11th 2015

The idea of recycling household waste has not caught on in our homes. Most of us simply stash all our wastes into those polythene bags from garbage collectors and put them outside our gates twice or thrice a week for collection.

But wait a minute. Have you ever thought about what we do to our environment? The truth is, this garbage ends up either illegally in our forests or legally in our already overstretched dumpsites. Home composting affords an opportunity for you not only to stop being part of the problem, but to enrich your backyard garden, reduce reliance on inorganic fertiliser and save on garden maintenance.

Elsewhere in the world, fewer and fewer homes are throwing away yard and kitchen waste. Instead, homeowners are composting leaves, grass clippings, garden trimmings and kitchen scraps. Mark you, city authorities, in a bid to control the sprawl of dumpsites and encourage homeowners to recycle, no longer collect such organic wastes.

Yet turning garbage into black gold to improve your soil and fertilise your plants is not such a difficult task once you master a few rules. Finding a good spot to do it may be the harder part, especially in the city where space is often limited.

But thanks to innovation, home composting no longer has to be the unsightly and smelly affair that it has been.

There is now a wide variety of new composting products that make home composting neater and a lot easier. Even apartment dwellers are now able to recycle their kitchen wastes into fertiliser for their houseplants. Here are a few tips to help you turn that garbage into gain for you and the environment.

Get the right bin

A good way to work with bins is to have a three-bin composter system. This type of compost system works very well for cold composting (type that requires no turning).

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One bin contains finished compost for use during the growing season, another bin contains compost that is in the process of decomposing, and the remaining bin is ready to receive the scraps and plant trimmings you toss into it daily.

For hot composting (type that requires periodic turning), you can conveniently turn the pile by shifting the ingredients from one bin into the adjoining one.

If you are composting with the traditional compost pile as opposed to a composter, bigger is often better.

Heat builds up faster with a big pile. A compost pile measuring about one cubic metre is usually ideal for home applications. Additionally, a traditional compost pile will require you to secure it with an edge and camouflage it with shrubbery or a wall to separate it visually from the rest of the backyard.

The right mix

Don’t throw away your kitchen scraps. Instead, add them to the compost. Kitchen scraps are typically high in nitrogen, which helps heat up the compost pile and speed up the composting process.

Egg shells, fruit and vegetable peels and scraps are all outstanding materials to add. For either hot or cold composting, the chemistry works best and with the least odour if you mix equal amounts of wet (green) and dry (brown) ingredients.

For instance, you can mix equal amounts of dry leaves (brown) and grass clippings (green) as you go along.

It is important to ensure that the compost is neither too wet nor too dry. The process of decomposition requires moisture, but too much makes it too soggy and the compost starts to stink.

-The writer is a landscape architect.

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