Start Composting at Home

February 4, 2009 by  
Filed under Recycle

compostComposting is the natural decomposition of organic material (from plants and animals) by microorganisms, into a dark brown crumbly organic substance called compost.

Compost mixed with soil is beneficial for growing plants as the compost retains soil moisture, improves soil structure and provides nutrients.

There are different types of composting methods such as using a typical compost heap (outdoor or in a compost bin), using earthworms in vermicomposting, or using effective microorganisms in Bokashi composting.

Instead of throwing away your food and garden waste, which ends up being incinerated, why not try composting them at home? The compost can be used for gardening and helps you save money by reducing the use of fertilisers.

You can try composting your food and garden waste at home with these 4 easy steps:

1. Prepare a Compost Bin

You can buy a compost bin for a few hundred dollars but we recommend building one yourself. All you need is a cheap plastic bin with a lid, such as the common black dustbin or the rectangular-sized dustbin. The size of the compost bin depends on your family size, the amount of waste disposed and where you want to place it.

It is important to ensure that air can circulate freely in the compost bin as composting is an aerobic process where microorganisms require oxygen to decompose the waste. If there’s insufficient air, the process becomes anaerobic and produces gases such as methane, ammonia and hydrogen sulphide, which causes smell problems.

To ensure good air circulation, drill small holes on the lid and at the bottom and sides of the bin. The bin should be placed at an airy spot without direct sunlight. The bin should also be elevated from the ground by placing two bricks or stones at each end of the bin bottom.

Use cardboard to line the sides in the bin to prevent material from coming out from the holes at the side. Stuff wood chips or wood shavings in a net and place it as a pillow at the bottom of the bin. This helps to prevent liquid and material from coming out from the holes at the bottom.

2. Start Adding Waste

Get fresh compost from an existing compost bin or buy them from stores. Place the compost into the bin and up to one-third of the bin. This compost acts as a starter as it contains microorganisms necessary for decomposing the waste.

compost-binThe microorganisms use carbon and nitrogen in the waste as food, so you should add a mixture of “greens” and “browns” to the compost bin.

Carbon is rich in “browns” such as dead leaves, twigs, woody prunings, wood shavings, egg boxes, cardboard, newspaper and waste paper.

Nitrogen is rich in “greens” such as fruits, vegetables, leaves, flowers, grass cuttings, eggshells, teabags and coffee grounds.

A balanced diet is necessary for the microorganisms and for making good compost. It is recommended to add about 50% “browns” and 50% “greens” to your compost bin. You can also cut the waste into smaller pieces to quicken the composting process.

Remember that you should not add meat, fish, cooked food, dairy products and oily stuff into the compost bin, as it will cause odour and pest problems.

After adding the waste to the starter compost, add water to the mixture and mix thoroughly using a spade or garden fork. The mixture should be moist and not wet.

Place another pillow net of wood chips or wood shavings on top of the mixture and close the lid. This helps to keep the moisture in the compost bin.

3. Maintain the Compost Mixture

The compost mixture generates heat as the microorganisms eat, grow and respire. So if you feel that your mixture is warm, this means that the composting process is doing fine. Mix the contents of the compost bin daily to circulate air and release heat.

Also ensure that the mixture is kept moist. A quick test is to take a handful of the mixture and squeeze it. If you get a few drops, that’s ok. But if you get too much liquid, you should add some woody or paper waste to absorb it.

If you have more waste, just add them to the mixture and mix it. Adjust the moisture content and the ratio of “browns” and “greens” accordingly.

4. Use the Compost

After about three to six months, the composting process should be completed and your food and garden waste should turn into dark brown material.

Screen your compost with a 0.5cm filter or a similar sized net. The smaller sized compost can be used for your gardening while the bigger sized compost can be kept in the bin as starter compost.

You can use the compost by mixing it with soil for growing plants. Or add a layer of compost at the plant base to prevent weeds.

That’s it, 4 easy steps to start composting at home. Ok, maybe it’s not so easy for some people. But with patience and care, everyone can produce natural compost from your food and garden waste. Try it today!

Image credit: wisemandarine (compost); Hello, I am Bruce (compost bin)

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Comments

35 Responses to “Start Composting at Home”
  1. aileen says:

    thanks for the very useful article, eugene.

    can you please tell me where i can buy compost to start my own compost heap.

    very interested in starting a compost heap

  2. NoWaste says:

    Hi Aileen, you do not have to buy compost to make compost. It can be made from any organic waste including green waste. Let me know if you need more information.

  3. Shupra says:

    Hey Eugene,
    Your idea as well as explanation is fabulous. I would definitely try it out. Thanks.

  4. Gan says:

    Hi, I read somewhere that the compost process can be speed up to about 4 – 6 wks. What are your thoughts on this ?

    • Eugene says:

      The natural composting process takes a few months but it also depends on the type of waste. Some composting systems use special microorganisms, worms or heat to shorten the composting time.

  5. Hi Eugene,

    Your article is useful. I am seeking a compost maker and worms: Do you know who sells them in Singapore?

    Thanks,

    Rob

  6. kairin says:

    well i am sold on the idea of reducing my waste products and growing plants as a hobby too.

    but where can i find the worms??? any suppliers around???

    any idea where i can find these wonderful creatures in sg?

  7. Stephen says:

    Hi, I have composting worms to let go… can call me at HP 9179-9463

  8. Gerald says:

    I used to compost religiously in NZ but am now living in an apartment in SG – any tips on how to compost in the urban jungle? I looked into bokashis but it’s not a full solution, you still have to get rid of the solid waste. Also dead keen to re-start a veggie garden which is easy enough to do on the patio, but can’t find a big enough box planter – help!

  9. Stephen says:

    Hi Gerald…I make composting bins that comes with the composting worms, see below links… can call me at HP9179-9463 if interested, thanks for going Green!

    http://www.greenculturesg.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=20919

    http://www.greenculturesg.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=14347&st=0

  10. Interesting article! 🙂

    My fiance and I have started composting our raw fruit and veggie scraps as well, and also created our own compost bin for under $20. If you’re interested, do feel free to visit our blog at compostinginsingapore.wordpress.com

    However, does anyone know where we can purchase a compost thermometer in Singapore? It helps us keep the compost temperature in check, and see if the compost pile is active or not.

    Looking forward to any response! Thank you! 🙂

    • Eugene says:

      Hi Michelle, good initiative on composting at HDB homes.

      You might need to add more soil/compost to your composting bin, break down the waste into smaller pieces, and turn it every day. And you need more holes at the side and top for air circulation to prevent anaerobic conditions.

      You don’t actually need a compost thermometer, as long as the pile is warm when you place your hand over it, it means the composting process and microorganisms are alive and working.

  11. Hi Eugene, thank you for your tip and feedback! 🙂 So far it has been a highly interesting and satisfactory experience; my fiance and I have never viewed food and household waste the same way again ever since we started composting. We are even planning to start vermicomposting soon.

    However, we are trying out a “lazy” method of composting in view of Singapore’s current attitude/motivation towards composting. Do visit our latest blog entry to have a better insight of this experiment – http://compostinginsingapore.wordpress.com/2010/04/19/common-myths-about-composting/

    We’re not sure how the exact outcome will be, but we hope to come up with very hassle-free composting solutions for Singaporeans with average/low motivation in composting.

    We welcome all comments and feedback! 🙂

  12. Mary Jane says:

    Hello! I live in Singapore and Bali. In Bali I have started a sizable organic garden, and am making compost in volume. I really want to buy a compost thermometer, to know when to turn my materials over. Can anyone tell me where to buy in Singapore? Many thanks!! Mary

  13. Lorenzo says:

    Do you have any numbers as to how much money can be saved if one were to start composting and used it instead of fertiliser? Also do you know approximately how much compost can be generated if i were to use a larger compost bin of about 1metre in diameter and 1 metre in height?

    I’m trying to propose the idea of composting to my school, the teacher is a little skeptical of the amount of money and said we needed some values.

    I would really appreciate your help!

  14. Daiquiri says:

    hey me too! composting in school would be great 😀

  15. Carl says:

    Mary Jane and Michelle,

    Composting thermometers are fairly easy to find…. go down to ure nearest BBQ/Hardware store and find a meat thermometer…. you know the one you can poke into the meat and get a reading of temperature. I got mine at a hardware store at the Cold Storage Sixth Avenue which doubles up as a BBQ equipment store too.

    They have digital ones (expensive) and normal needle analog type (cheeeeeeeap!).

    I never use a thermometer….. my hands (back of them) work well. and i turn them so often temperature doesnt really matter.

    I have a vemicomposting bin indoors in SG and the results from that are faster than composting….

    Carl

  16. Stephen says:

    Hi All, I have set up a website http://www.terracyclesg.com on recycling of foodwaste and horticultural waste…Do feel free to contact me for consultation…no obligation…hp 9179-9463, thanks.

  17. fumanuld3 says:

    Excellente matinée à toutes et tous ,

    En premier lieu , donnez-moi l’opportunité de vous démontrer mon appréciation pour toutes les formidables infos que j’ai lues sur cet impressionnant site.

    Je ne suis pas convaincue d’être au bon section mais je n’en ai pas trouvé de meilleure .

    J’habite à Summerside, us . J’ai 27 années et j’éduque trois super enfants qui sont tous âgés entre 5 et 14 ans (1 est adopté). J’aime particulièrement beaucoup les animaux et j’essaie de leur donner les marchandises qui leur rendent l’existance plus festive .

    Merci à l’avance pour toutes les palpitantes discussions à venir et je vous remercie de votre compréhension pour mon français moins qu’idéal : ma langue maternelle est l’anglais et je tempte d’apprendre mais c’est très complexe !

    A plus tard

    Arthru

  18. Kong says:

    Hi

    Good day
    Does anyone know where to get a home compost machine in Singapore to recycle home food waste? I mean a small unit able to go under kitchen sink.

  19. Stacey says:

    I really hate to put food waste in the garbage but I really have no where to put compost when a bin gets full. I know I can put a smell free worm bin under the sink but it’s going to get full at some point. Are there any local farms that want this urban waste?

  20. el says:

    why need to buy compost bins? styrofoam boxes picked up from the wet mkts can do as well. It can be neatly stacked up.

    no need to buy any worms. worms will come naturally when the greens breakdown.

    the whole process is practically free of charge

  21. M L says:

    Hi. My first try at composting resulted in moulds. how to prevent that?
    Thank you.

  22. chongx says:

    Hi it’s because of the moisture. A good way to prevent that is to blend all your food waste together. Alternatively, you can start with heat composting then subsequently feed the waste to the worms.

    Any further queries just visit ny website.
    http://Www.worm-compost-bins.com. or
    http://Www.worm-compost-bins.blogspot.com

    Cheers.

  23. Mrs E Thompson says:

    Could you please advise where I can hire or buy a model of the inside of a compost bin for use in a schoolsimilar to the one at the beginning of your article
    Thank You

  24. Koi-Yong says:

    Hi, I have a can-o-worm but the worms died. I want to buy the worms from the distributer again but they are only interested in selling the kit. Is there anyone selling earthworms?

  25. Howie says:

    I like to know where I can get wood chips for my garden

  26. Kul says:

    Nice site and wish there were more likeminded folks around! I just invested in a composting machine (Google red dragon composter) it’s pretty cool and takes all the nasties from the kitchen and turns it to some harmless compost like substance in a few days. No smells either even with meats. It’s a biggish machine though (half the width of a standard washing machine).

    It can’t handle garden waste though eg tougher leaves and branches – anyone know where I might be able to buy a suitable mulcher or waste grinder in Singapore ?

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  1. […] This table is adapted from “Home composting made easy”, U.S. America <http://www.homecompostingmadeeasy.com/index.html &gt;, written by avid gardeners Dr. C. Forrest McDowell and Tricia Clarke-McDowell. The above table has also been edited with cross referencing from “Start Composting at Home” Singapore, Written by Eugene, <http://www.zerowastesg.com/2009/02/04/start-composting-at-home/ &gt;.  […]



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