These days, store-bought fertilizers are expensive and getting harder to find. Fortunately, recycling kitchen waste into organic matter is easy and an excellent way to feed plants. If you have been wondering what is composting, learn how compost is beneficial and how to compost food waste for fertilizer use and apply it to your plants to promote healthy growth.
If you stop to think of all the food scraps you throw into the trash daily, weekly, and monthly, the amount may surprise you. Food waste is the perfect material to combine with yard debris in the personal compost bin or for community composting. This organic recycling process is ideal for food waste reduction, and the finished compost provides your outdoor plants with nutrients.
While it takes a little know-how, food waste composting is easier to do than you may think. All you need is the correct kitchen scraps, some yard trimmings, and the proper moisture and temperature balance to create rich soil additives.
Composting with Food Scraps
Home composting is an ideal form of waste management, turning organic waste like food scraps and yard waste into a rich amendment and plant fertilizer. However, there are a few things to understand about composting meat and veggie scraps to ensure you get the desired end product.
What is Compost?
You may be unfamiliar with the process if you’ve never composted before. Discover what compost is, its uses, and how it’s a useful practice for gardening. The composting process involves recycling organic material like yard trimmings and food waste.
Compost is rich in potassium, nitrogen, phosphorus, and other nutrients. If it decomposes properly, the result is a valuable fertilizer. Unlike synthetic fertilizers, it is free of harmful chemicals. It helps balance the C to N ratio and promotes strong plant roots and healthy growth. You can add a homemade compost accelerator if you like but it’s usually not needed.
Different Ways of Composting Food Waste
The most popular way that many homeowners compost waste is in a compost pile or heap. However, there are a variety of composting methods. Explore some common ways to help you choose the ideal type for your needs, whether you need a way for beginners to learn composting or you have a little more experience.
Open-air composting is one of the more familiar forms. You generally add organic matter to a composting bin or heap and water and turn the material manually. Direct composting is when you dig a hole or trench and bury the food scraps below ground. This form of composting is the easiest but the slowest.
Tumbler composting involves consistent pile turning of a tumbler bin suspended in the air. While this is very effective at creating fertilizer, the containers are heavy.
Using a food waste composting machine for EMO composting is ideal if you desire less work or have a small yard. It’s designed for indoor use and allows bacteria to break down food materials.
Worm farm composting is when you add live worms to the compost heap to help with decomposition. This type is more challenging to balance since the worms need the perfect environment to survive.
Types of Food Scraps for Compost
Before you start tossing all your leftover food scraps into the compost, it’s essential to know that some foods are not compostable. Learn which foods are good for composting and those to avoid.
Is food waste good for compost? Yes, it is. However, some edible food products are great for composting, while others contain harmful substances. You can compost tea bags, fruits and vegetables, coffee grounds, eggshells, and nut shells.
Not only can you add eggshells and coffee grounds to your compost pile, but eggshells are great for plants on their own. They are ideal for repelling slugs. Add coffee grounds to house plants or your compost for a boost of nitrogen and to loosen soil.
Avoid adding eggs, fish and meat bones, grease or fat, and dairy products, like milk, yogurt, and sour cream. While a compostable liner plastic bag is safe, never add household hazardous waste, like pesticides, plastics, or cleaning products.
How to Compost Food Waste
There is more to composting food waste than simply throwing scraps in a pile. Discover the proper way to layer a compost bag to ensure you get the best fertilizing product for your plants.
Decide where to set up your compost heap or pile. Pick an area with partial shade and good drainage, and ensure it’s in a spot easily accessible with a nearby water source. A manageable size for compost is three feet tall and wide.
Create a four to eight-inch layer of brown materials, like straw, paper, and wood chips at the bottom for drainage and aeration. Add a layer of food scraps, grass clippings, and other green waste over the top.
Continue alternating layers until the bin is full, adding a bit of water to each layer as you go. Turn the material every four to seven days in the beginning and less often as it matures.
How Long Does It Take to Compost Food Scraps?
Composting food waste is an excellent way to recycle organic material and let nature turn useless leftovers into a rich and fertile soil amendment, but how long does the composting process take?
There is a waiting game after you put food waste in compost and add the proper browns and greens. How long you wait for the finished compost depends on factors such as material types, compost size, and climate conditions.
Some forms of compost may take up to a year, while others are ready in as little as six to eight weeks. Once the compost is dark brown and has an earthy smell, it’s ready for use.
Problems to Watch for While Composting Food Waste
While composting is relatively easy, you may encounter some problems using food scraps for compost. Some common issues may arise when you recycle food in the compost pile.
Excessive moisture is a common composting problem, leading to flies, foul smells, and poor production. Not providing a balance of fresh and dry materials is one of the main causes. For example, you can compost rice but always add carbon-rich browns when putting extra amounts of fruit and veggies into the compost.
Dry compost stops decomposing since the fungi and bacteria cannot work effectively. Adding some water or more food scraps usually helps solve this problem.
A compost pile with too many wet ingredients, like citrus fruits, upsets the balance of the material, causing it to become too acidic. Consider sprinkling wood ash and extra browns into the mix to counteract acidity.
How to Apply Food Waste in the Garden
Now that you understand which food items are safe for adding to the soil or compost heap, it’s time to use those leftovers to benefit your garden. Enrich the earth and feed your plants with food scraps for compost.
The simplest way to use food waste is to apply it directly to the soil. While this takes a bit longer for the nutrients to break down, it’s a great alternative if you do not have a composting bin. For example, composting eggshells, cut-up fruit and veggie peels, and leftover coffee grounds directly into the dirt around your plants benefits their health.
The second way to use leftover food scraps is to add them to the composting bin and turn it into fertilizer. However, this technique may take up to a year. To apply the compost, work two inches of the material into the top five inches of soil in fall or spread several inches of the organic matter over the top of the bed in the spring before tilling.
Backyard composting is an excellent way to use wasted food while giving your plants what they need to thrive. The process is relatively simple whether you use compostable bags, bins, or a machine, and the final result is a natural, nutrient-rich additive for your lawn and garden.
Now that you know how to compost food waste easily, why not share our composting food waste guide with the gardeners in your life on Pinterest and Facebook?