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Home composting means to eliminate the organic fraction of waste at home (the one that is collected door to door in more and more municipalities) by doing what nature has always done, that is to recycle the organic substance that is no longer useful and return it in the form of humus. With the composting of organic waste you can: better manage household waste by producing less. Pollute less. Doing good for your garden and flowers. Reduce waste disposal costs.
Home composting means managing one organic factory where the workers are insects, bacteria and fungi which convert organic matter into simpler and more stable chemical compounds: mineral salts, water and carbon dioxide. The functioning of the factory will depend on the care of the workers, who like all living beings have needs and conditions in which they express themselves better or worse. Good composting, which is a fairly simple thing, therefore has rules.
Home composting: what it takes
First of all, some green space. Home composting is not feasible in an apartment (unless it is equipped with a terrace or a balcony and if you want to dedicate a part to composting of vegetable waste) but if you only have a vegetable garden, a small garden or a piece of lawn you can become a compost producer with which you can feed plants and flowers. The second thing you need is a composter (like those in the photo): this is the most practical solution for doing small home composting in the garden well (the alternative is a hole in the ground but you need a large space for a composter).
Composter, prices and models
Excellent models can be bought with 40 euros and free shipping. There is no shortage of cheaper models. Before purchasing, make your evaluations.
Where and how to place the composter
The composter should be placed in a place in the vegetable garden or garden that is practicable all year round (without stagnation and mud even in autumn and winter). These containers, if of good quality, work in any climatic situation, but the best place to place the composter is in the shade of an evergreen tree that with its branches will protect it from excessive heat and showers. The only preliminary operation is to prepare the underlying soil with a hoeing and a bed of chopped pruning: this will facilitate drainage and the exchange of microorganisms with the soil.
What to compost
The raw materials of compost are food scraps, garden waste and more. Surely you can compost kitchen leftovers (vegetable cleaning residues, peels, skins, tea and coffee grounds, crushed egg shells, leftovers); waste from the garden and vegetable garden (pruning, dry leaves, withered flowers, stems, grass); uncoated paper; untreated cardboard and wood chips. Be careful with pruning waste because there are plants resistant to degradation (magnolia, cherry laurel, walnut, chestnut, coniferous needles) that in the composter must be mixed well with the more easily degradable materials. Unsuitable for composting are coated paper, varnished wood and all waste not listed above.
How to make composter work
The most important thing is to ensure the correct and constant presence of oxygen in the composter (necessary for insects, bacteria and fungi present in the soil and waste) with some precautions: favor the porosity of the compostable mass (with chopped pruning wood, straw, dry leaves, shredded cardboard alternating with kitchen waste) to facilitate air exchange; do not compress the mass of waste; turn the material from time to time, especially if it is not very porous (for this reason, a composter with an upper opening designed to facilitate the turning operation is recommended).
How to load the composter
The right mixing of the compostable mass, as well as ensuring the porosity and the supply of oxygen, serves to supply carbon and nitrogen in a balanced way and to give optimal humidity. The carbon / nitrogen ratio (C / N) is the chemical regulatory parameter of microbial activity. In the initial mix, the right ratio is 20-30 grams of carbon for each gram of nitrogen. If there is too much carbon, microorganisms reproduce less and decomposition slows down; if there is too much nitrogen, the excess is dispersed in ammonia form and this causes bad odors (urine odor). The correct balance is obtained by mixing the wetter and nitrogenous waste (kitchen leftovers, grass clippings) with those with low humidity and more carbonaceous (dry leaves, straw, cardboard, shavings). It is useful to mix the groups of materials before introducing them and integrate the first load with fresh compost obtained from a previous cycle or with garden soil.
How to regulate the humidity and temperature of the composter
The humidity of the mass, which tends to change with rain and evaporation, can be verified with the punch test. It consists in taking a sample of mixed mass and squeezing it in your hand: if only a few droplets of water gush out, the humidity is the right one; if the humidity is low it is necessary to water, if the humidity is high, dry waste must be added and the mass turned over on a sunny day. If the mixing, humidity and oxygenation of the mass are correct, the temperature soon reaches 60-70 ° C and triggers the defined phase of sanitation in which the strong heat eliminates microorganisms harmful to the process and pathogenic ones.
What are the symptoms of composter malfunction
If the composting process isn't working, the compostable mass, like a sick one, signals it with some symptoms. If the mass is cold it is because there is a lack of oxygen due to excess moisture; in this case, oxygenation must be favored by turning and mixing dry waste. If there is a rotten smell, it is because excessive humidity and a lack of oxygen have initiated putrefaction processes; it is necessary to correct the mixing by adding dry waste and mixing. If there is a smell of urine, it is because there is too much nitrogen: add carbonaceous waste and mix. If there are gnats it is because there are too many wet scraps on the head of the mass: always cover the top layer with leaves, grass or dry straw.
When the compost is ready
The compost is ready about 4-6 months after starting the process and can be used to fertilize the soil before sowing or transplanting. If very fresh, it should be used like manure and that is not in contact with the roots. After 8-10 months the compost is defined as mature and looks like a nice soft and black soil. The best composters are equipped with a door or the entire front wall that can be opened to allow the extraction of the compost. The extracted material must be coarsely screened to separate the soil from the coarser divisions, which are excellent for reactivating the process in the composter together with the upper and less mature part.
How to use compost
To fertilize the bottom it is advisable to have ready compost in the measure of 10-15 kh / m2. For lawns, on the other hand, mature and well-refined compost is better, possibly mixed with sand and earth. In the planting of shrubs and trees, the compost is also used to avoid compaction at the bottom of the hole. In order not to burn the roots, ready compost should be used if the plant is with clod, mature compost if the roots are bare. In horticulture, compost ready in spring before sowing is used, and fresh compost if the land is integrated in autumn-winter with winter fertilization. In floriculture in pots or in planters, mature compost is used, supplemented with peat or peaty soils.
Photo credits and information on composters Sartori-ambiente.com
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