GARDENING ZERO WASTE

From Food Waste to Resource through Composting

Do not discard vegetal food waste! Use it to make compost for your house plants and vegetable garden.

Food waste in the compost bin.

Compost is organic matter that has been decomposed and recycled thanks to the activity of bacteria present in the environment, together with the action of earthworms and other organisms, into a natural fertilizer: the humus.

To start composting, you only need a composter, moist organic matter such as healthy leaves, organic waste from the kitchen, some paperboard and time.

What can I compost?

#1 Food waste

  • Fruit and vegetables. Peel of citrus fruit, being of slow degradation, must be added with moderation. In general, limit the citrus fruits, because, by the action of their essential oils, slow down fermentation
  • Plant beverages like coffee, tea, wine and beer
  • Egg shells
  • Pasta, cakes, meat, and fish with caution (may attract unwanted animals)

#2 Non-food household waste

  • Paperboard, cardboard or clean paper
  • Paper napkins

#3 Garden waste

  • Healthy leaves, small branches, grass cuts in small quantity
  • Leaves of plants resistant to maceration to be added with moderation and cut into small pieces

#4 Other

  • Natural latex products
  • Small amounts of natural fabrics and fibers
  • Pet hair, hair and nail clippings

How long does it take to produce humus? 

Depending on the temperature and the degree of humidity, it will take from 4-6 weeks up to 6-12 months to produce ready-to-use humus. In general, the smaller the organic particles, the faster they decompose.

At the end of this period, the materials are generally completely broken down into humus.

The degree of maturity of a compost is defined by the stabilization of organic matter. If you see plenty of earthworms and other organisms like flies and woodlice, it means that the compost is not yet mature.

Otherwise, if the compost is dark, almost without flies and worms, the compost as reached the degree of maturity:

  • Color dark and smell of soil soft appearance
  • The starting materials are not recognizable except a few woody branches
  • There are almost no flies or worms
  • The temperature is decreased to normal temperature

How to use compost

  • Use compost to fertilize your indoor plants and the plants in your garden
  • Spread the compost before planting
  • During Spring, put the compost at the base of growing plants as a fertilizer
  • In Summer, add compost in the evening when it is cool and do not let it dry out
  • In Autumn add compost to improve the soil

What to do if …

The compost smells bad. It can be due to the lack of air or an excess of water. Try stirring up the matter and adding leaves and straw.

There are too many flies. Incorporate fresh waste into the compost.

Cut grass is difficult to decompose. Cut the lawn often, so that the grass cut will be cut into smaller pieces.

Hard pieces like ananas leaves do not decompose properly. Cut them into smaller pieces, they will decompose faster.

Remember to stir the material often from the top of the composter!

By composting, you contribute to reduce waste and in exchange you will have high quality humus.

Involve children in the preparation of compost and make them aware of the importance of this “brown gold”!

Feel free to download DBDP infographic on Composting here:

Cover photo credits (c) istockphoto.com/sakdina

About Valentina

Hi, I’m Valentina. I’m a natural scientist and communications consultant, passionate about plant-based food. I’m always looking for new ideas for living more sustainably. II find inspiration locally as well as from other cultures.