Do I Need a Composter?
Home gardening has come back into style after a few decades of falling out of favor. Composting is a big part of home gardening. Compost is a nutrient-rich product that is created from decomposed organic matter. It can be purchased at the local garden supply center, but it’s simple and inexpensive to make it at home. Transform your kitchen scraps and yard waste into ‘black gold’ known as compost using a device called a composter. Several different styles are on the market, read through these tips and purchase the one that best suits your gardening needs.
How Do Composters Work?
Decomposing matter needs oxygen in order to fully decompose and turn into compost. A composting tumbler has a crank handle on it so you can turn it regularly and allow air flow inside of the tumbler. The organic matter inside gets oxygenated with each turn of the hand crank. The oxygen fuels the microbial activity and causes the matter to heat up inside the tumbler and decompose more rapidly. A quick turn of the handle every day or two will accelerate the decomposition process and transform waste into usable garden fertilizer in just a few weeks.
Benefits of Having a Composter
A composter benefits the planet by keeping waste out of the landfill. Instead of dumping usable food scraps, grass clipping, leaves and small twigs into the local landfill and having it sit there for years before it decomposes, recycle it quickly at home for garden use. Compost is an organic fertilizer that will keep plants fed all summer. It can be used in containers, in-ground vegetable gardens and flower gardens. It’s rich in nutrients and will give developing plants instant energy for growing deep roots and strong stems. Organic compost is a natural slow-release fertilizer that will continue feeding plants all summer so the they can produce more vegetables, fruits and flowers. Compost also makes an excellent mulch for plants. It prevents weed growth, helps soil retain moisture and will slowly decompose and increase soil nutrients. Soil structure is improved with the use of compost. It can change heavy clay, soggy soil or barren soil into fertile soil suitable for growing food. It will also help sandy soil retain moisture, promote aeration and create an underground sub-culture that promotes diverse microbial activity that will benefit plants.
Making your own organic plant food with a composter will help keep chemicals out of the soil and local water system. Any chemical used in the soil or on plants will seep into the soil and eventually find its way to the nearest water source. The chemical-laden water will follow a pathway that will lead it right back into your home in the form of tap water. Having a composter benefits you by helping to provide you with chemical-free food, water and soil.
What is the History of Composters?
Composting animal manure and straw has been around since ancient times in Rome, Greece and Israel. Evidence has been discovered that our continent employed the art of composting since the earliest times of Native Americans and European settlers. While not done in the style of composters we have available to us today, our forefathers heaped organic matter together and turned it by hand with a pitch fork until it decomposed enough to be used in the garden. Compost piles with hand-turning typically takes months to decompose, tumblers create usable compost from organic waste in just weeks. The process of composting remains similar today as it did for our forefathers, but is much easier and faster for the modern gardener.
Chemicals came to town by the early twentieth century and farmers began to purchase chemical fertilizers and forgo the making of compost. Organic farming practices never completely ceased, but they fell out of the limelight, replaced by chemical products that were easier to obtain and had a guaranteed analysis. It would take years to discover the toll those chemicals would take on the planet and those living on the planet. As the water, soil and air pollution caused by garden chemicals came to light, so did related health issues. Some food allergies were not caused by the food itself, but rather from the chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides used to grow the food. Whatever is in the soil where food crops are grown is absorbed by the plant and trace amounts will be in the food. The same is true for any chemical sprayed on the plant. These harmful chemicals, whether in the soil water, air or food, also have a cumulative effect in the body and can impact our health by contributing to the development of diseases. This can occur to both human and animal. Birth defects, cancer, allergies and many other conditions can be connected to chemicals used in the food growing process. Pollution to our planet and potential harm to our health has created a resurgence of the organic ways of life. Sustainable, healthy garden practices are gaining in popularity across the globe, and a home composter can help in the practice of organic gardening.
Available Composter Options
There are many sizes and styles to choose from, and one will be right for your composting needs. To help decide which option is right for you, consider the amount of waste you generate, how large your garden is and how much available space you have for a composter. A small apartment for two with a container garden would be well-suited to a kitchen composter that can fit in a cabinet or one that takes up no more room than a standard kitchen trash bin. Some kitchen composters are stylish and designed to blend in with kitchen decor, like a stainless steel countertop model. Don’t worry about odor, when composting is done correctly, there is no odor.
Large organic farms may need a three-bin composter that is 12-15 feet in length and can hold massive amounts of organic waste. Each of the three bins holds waste material that is in different stages of decomposition. The first bin holds a newly created pile of raw waste material; the second bin holds partially decomposed material and the last bin holds the material that is in the final stages of composting. Organic material is turn either by an electrical crank or by hand with a pitch fork, and is material is moved from one bin to another during the composting process.
A commonly used composter option for home gardeners is one that holds about 10 bushels of organic matter, is easy to turn with an exterior handle and transforms waste in usable compost in a few weeks. Called compost tumblers, some of these styles have metal drums and some have plastic and are on attached legs that places the bin up to about waist-high. Place all the raw, organic material inside the tumbler drum, moisten it as needed, and give it a few turns every couple of days to keep the organic matter aerated and well mixed.Compost tumblers also come in smaller sizes. Whatever option or size you select, look for one that is easy to load and unload, has a non-stick interior and provides an easy method of turning the organic matter inside.