America’s rate of waste production is incomparable. Although it’s responsible for only 4% of the world’s population, America accounts for 12% of global trash. In 2019 alone, America’s retail, service and residential food waste amounted to 66.2 million tonnes.

Additionally, 40% of the 66.2 million tonnes of waste came from households. No wonder the Environmental Resilience Institute observed that; if everyone in the United States of America were to compose waste, it would be equivalent to doing away with  7.8 million cars from the road.

So, are you one of those people looking to create an eco-friendly environment, seeking to invest in organic soil or tired of allowing organic matter to idly sit in plastic trash bags in a landfill? Why not turn the food waste into soil food?

This article explores organic compost, types of organic compost and how to make organic compost at home. You will also learn why you should consider turning your garbage into organic soil.

First things first, as they say!

What is organic compost?

Organic composting is a natural process of breaking down organic matter such as leaves, grass clippings, kitchen scraps and other plant materials into nutrient-rich soil.

The Practice is gaining prominence among gardeners and homeowners looking to cut their gardening expenses while still producing high-quality fruits, vegetables and flowers.

Why compost at home?

Composting at home is one of the best practices you can adopt to reduce your environmental impact. Here’s why you should consider it:

  • Be earth-friendly: Composting reduces landfill waste and helps preserve natural resources. Composting organic material instead of sending it to landfills significantly decreases methane emissions, reducing global warming.
  • Promote healthy living: Home composting creates nutrient-rich soil for gardens and landscaping projects, resulting in healthier plants without chemicals or fertilizers.

By composing, you will improve air quality, soil retention capability and water conservation while protecting wildlife habitats.

  • Cut on Cost: Composting at home can save you money! Why would you need expensive store-bought fertilizers and pesticides when you can reap fresh vegetables from your homemade organic soils?

You can check out this case study revealing how organic compost improved soil quality, water retention and crop yields by 400%.

3 Types of Composting

With organic materials such as leaves, grass clippings, and kitchen scraps, you can break them down into a dark, crumbly material (organic compost) that can be used instead of fertilizer.

Here are the three main ways of producing organic compost:

  • Hot Compost – Hot composting is the most common method of creating usable compost from organic matter. It combines nitrogen-rich materials like fresh grass clippings with carbon-rich items like dried leaves and twigs in layers within a bin or pile.

The combination creates heat which helps speed up the breakdown process to about 4–6 weeks before it’s ready for use.

  • Cold Compost:  Cold composting requires less effort than hot composting but produces results over a longer period (about 1 year). This type of organic compost doesn’t require turning or aeration.

Instead, combine all the ingredients into one big pile and cover it.  You should keep the materials moist, so they don’t dry out during decomposition. However, you don’t need to add water during the rainy season as rainwater can serve the purpose.

  • Vermicompost: Vermicompost is created using worms to break down food scraps and other waste products into nutrient-rich soil.

Since worms consume organic material as their primary source of nutrition, their waste (worm castings) creates a significant natural fertilizer that you can mix with soil at planting time.

Home composting options

If you are looking to turn your household waste into organic compost, you have two options that can help you achieve that:

  • Backyard composting: involves collecting organic materials such as plant trimmings, fruit and vegetable scraps, eggshells, coffee grounds, lawn clippings, leaves and other organic matter in one area of your yard.
  • Vermicomposting: Involves red wiggler worms which consume food scraps, including fruits, vegetables and paper products such as newspaper or cardboard.

Backyard composting: step-by-step guide

To start backyard composting, you’ll need four basic ingredients: carbon (also known as “browns”), nitrogen (or “greens”), oxygen, and water.

Browns are dry materials that structure the pile, such as dead leaves or straw, greens are wetter items, like grass clippings or vegetable kitchen scraps.

Oxygen comes from occasionally turning the pile with a shovel or pitchfork, and water keeps the materials moist.

Here’s how to get started:

  • Choosing your storage: Choose where to collect your brown and green matter. You can keep your greens in a closed container in your kitchen and designate a space outside for your browns.
  • Choosing a composing site: Choose a spot in your yard close to a water source and preferably a distance from your fence.

A shady patio corner will work if you don’t have much outdoor space. Build a bin out of wood pallets or wire fencing. A tumbler or barrel can also work.

  • Preparation of compost material: Chop your browns and greens into manageable pieces for faster decomposition.
  • Building your compost: Add browns first. You should use twice as much brown material as green material when starting out, followed by greens and some soil from your yard.

Water lightly after adding each layer until all the piles feel damp.

  • Maintaining your pile: Turn your pile at least once every two weeks using a shovel or pitchfork and ensure your pile remains moist.

A well-maintained pile should reach 130° to 160° F. A foul odor from the pile may indicate insufficient air or too much water. Turn the pile and add more dry material. Is the pile not heating up? Add more greens and turn.

  • Harvesting: Your organic compost should be ready in 3-5 weeks when well attended to. The pile reduces to about a third and should smell like moist humus soil.

Vermicomposting: step-by-step guide

Follow these steps for vermicomposting:

  • Gather your materials: You’ll need red wriggler worms (the most commonly recommended species you can purchase from a worm grower).

Additionally, have a container with holes in the bottom or sides for drainage, bedding material such as shredded newspaper, dry leaves or straw, and food scraps like vegetable peels and eggshells (crushed).

  • Storing your worm bin: You can keep it indoors or outdoors. However, maintain temperatures of 32° to 95° F with the four-inch bedding.
  • Prepare your worm bin: Spread a few inches of damp bedding material over the bottom of your worm bin (about 4 inches) before adding your worms.
  • Feed your worms: Add some food scraps to the layer of worms. Each time you add worms, you should also add two inches of bedding.

You can feed the worms fresh vegetables but avoid citrus fruits, onions and garlic. These could make their environment too acidic for them to survive or cause a foul odor.

Ensure the worms have eaten all the previous food before adding more.

  • Harvest your compost: After about 3-6 months, you should have plenty of dark, crumbly earthy smelling compost that is ready for use.

Here’s a detailed guide to the Dos and Don’ts of vermicomposting.

What is certified organic mushroom compost (COFMC)?

COFMC is an approved by-product of mushroom farming created using a combination of hay and straw as the primary ingredients. Other ingredients include portions of cottonseed hulls, horse manure, poultry litter, gypsum, corncobs, lime, and cocoa bean hulls.

The carefully chosen components are mixed and covered in sphagnum peat moss to create an ideal value for organic compost.

You can acquire COFMC from certified organic producers such as Laurel Valley Soils or create your mock organic compost at home.