By Rebekah Pierce
Are you thinking about embarking on a journey toward self-sufficiency?
If so, you may want to begin composting.
Composting offers numerous benefits to homesteaders - in whatever sense you view yourself as a homesteader! Not only can it help you produce fertile soil in which to grow an indoor or outdoor garden, but it can also provide you with a method of disposing of food and other biodegradable waste.
This simple homesteading “hack,” as you might have it, is one of the best ways to start living more sustainably at home.
Benefits of Composting
Why compost? Well, why not!
There are plenty of reasons to start composting if you’re looking to embark on a journey of self-sufficiency.
Composting at home can help you conserve water, fuel, and energy. When you compost at home and then use the finished product on your plants, it helps to soak up water, releasing it slowly to your plants. You won’t have to water as much, which is a huge benefit for gardeners in drought-stricken areas.
Plus, it’s tons of fun to do - especially if you have children and want to teach them the value of a self-sufficient lifestyle and the ecological importance of recycling.
It also reduces waste. Whether you’re worried about the planet or simply want to cut down on the amount you spend to dispose of your tarsh each week (for most people, it’s a blend of the two), composting is a good way to cut back.
Did you know that organic waste, like yard waste and food waste, account for up to 50% of what we throw out? You might not be able to compost all of your food waste (things like meat and dairy shouldn’t be added to a compost system, for example) but you can likely get rid of most of it in this fashion.
How is composting different from throwing food into your kitchen garbage bin? When you put food waste in your trash bin for weekly pick-up, it heads to the local landfill. Here, it decomposes and releases methane gas, which, even when there are systems in place to capture it, can be damaging to the environment.
When you compost, rather than releasing that methane, you circulate the nutrients from the decomposing food waste back into the soil.
That leads us to the next major benefit of composting. Compost, from start to finish, only takes a few months to create (the exact timeline depends on your conditions and what you add to the pile - osme ingredients, like chicken manure, take a while to age appropriately).
When all is said and done, you’ll be left with a fertile soil additive that can increase organic matter and help your plants absorb nutrients that are already found in the soil. It will add plenty of nutrients of its own, too. When compared to traditional NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) fertilizers, compost has many more micronutrients and microorganisms to boost your soil health.
As a result, compost can not only increase the fertility of your soil, but it can increase its structure, too. If you have heavy clay soil that’s too tough to garden in, compost can help make it more friable - that means it will be easier to dig in!
The benefits don’t end there. Compost can balance out your pH and extend your growing season by moderating soil temperature. It can even control erosion.
Even if you’re only growing a few plants indoors, compost can come to the rescue. It can be added as a top-dressing around houseplants or an indoor herb garden. You can also make a “tea” out of compost and use it to kill weeds, supply nutrients, and provide your plants with everything they need.
What’s not to love?
The Basics of Composting
If you’re new to composting, don’t worry - it’s not a complicated process.
Your goal with composting is to balance “green” ingredients with “brown” ingredients so that decomposition can occur and turn your waste into fertile, usable soil. What are green ingredients? These are materials that are high in nitrogen, such as food scraps, manure, and grass clippings.
Brown ingredients, on the other hand, are high in carbon. These include things like paper, branches, dry leaves, and wood chips.
You can add any of these ingredients to your compost bin, as long as you maintain relatively balanced quantities of each. You’ll need to pay attention to the particle size of your ingredients, too - those that are too large just won’t break down as well.
Other factors you’ll need to control in a compost system include oxygen, moisture, and temperature. These three variables all encourage microbial activity so your waste breaks down into usable compost.
Types of Composting Systems
There are several kinds of compost systems you can implement at home, all of which take very little cash or effort to incorporate.
One of the easiest ways to start composting is with a vermicomposting bin. Vermicomposting sounds complicated, but really, it’s just the practice of composting with worms. You can place one of these bins in the corner of a closet, in your basement, or even under a kitchen sink. When done correctly, vermicomposting bins produce no odors and allow you to dispose of up to three and a half pounds of food waste per week!
There are plenty of other composting systems for you to consider, too, including aerated composting, pile composting, and vessel composting.
Looking for more advice on how to get started with composting? Take a look at Wildline’s Master List of Sustainability and Self-Sufficiency Solutions. Here at Wildline, we want to help you figure out the best way for you to get started - regardless of where you live or where you might be currently at in your homesteading journey.
Your pathway toward a more self-sufficient lifestyle doesn’t have to be stressful, complicated, or costly. We can help you find the right solutions for your personality and your budget. Composting is a great place to start - and we’ll show you how it can work for you.