How to Repurpose Food Scraps into Home Compost

How to Repurpose Food Scraps into Home Compost

How to Repurpose Food Scraps into Home Compost

Why Compost Food Scraps

Composting food scraps provides numerous benefits compared to simply throwing them in the trash. Here are some of the top reasons I compost food waste:

  • Reduces landfill waste: Food scraps make up a significant portion of household waste. Composting keeps them out of landfills where they take up space and release methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

  • Produces fertilizer: Composted food scraps break down into a rich, organic fertilizer that can be used to boost soil health and plant growth in my garden. It’s a natural and free alternative to chemical fertilizers.

  • Saves money: By composting I avoid paying garbage collection fees for food waste pickup. The compost produced can also save me money on buying fertilizer and soil amendments.

  • Creates healthy soil: In addition to releasing nutrients, compost introduces beneficial microorganisms to soil and improves its ability to hold water and air. This supports healthier plants and higher yields.

What Can Be Composted

Many types of food scraps can be composted at home successfully. The key is to maintain a balance of “greens” and “browns” to create ideal conditions for decomposition.

Greens – Nitrogen Sources

Greens are foods that are high in nitrogen and provide moisture. I can compost the following greens:

  • Fruits and vegetables (skins, pits, stems)
  • Eggshells
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Tea leaves and bags
  • Fresh grass clippings
  • Garden trimmings and houseplants

Browns – Carbon Sources

Browns are carbon-rich materials that allow air flow in the compost pile. Good browns include:

  • Dry leaves and twigs
  • Straw
  • Wood chips and sawdust
  • Shredded paper and cardboard
  • Sawdust
  • Pine needles

It’s ideal to maintain a green to brown ratio between 2:1 and 4:1 by volume. This provides a blend of moisture, nitrogen and carbon to feed the microorganisms.

Composting Methods

There are several composting methods I can use at home to repurpose food waste successfully:

Compost Bin or Pile

This involves collecting food scraps and yard waste in a freestanding compost bin or an open pile. I turn or mix the pile periodically to aerate it. Pros are it’s simple and inexpensive. Cons are it can attract pests and takes 4-12 months to produce finished compost. I can speed up the process by chopping scraps finely, turning the pile weekly and monitoring moisture.

Vermicomposting

Vermicomposting uses worms to break down food waste, usually in an indoor bin. The worms’ activity aerates the compost and speeds the process. In 3-6 months, finished vermicompost is ready to use. Pros are little effort required and no odors. Cons are startup costs and keeping the bin balanced. Red wiggler worms are best suited for vermicomposting.

Bokashi Composting

This anaerobic method involves mixing food waste with bokashi bran which contains microorganisms. The scraps ferment for 2-4 weeks, reducing volume. The end product can then be added to a regular compost pile. Pros are it accepts all food waste, including meat, dairy and oils. Cons are purchasing bran and dealing with fermented food odors.

Tips for Successful Composting

Based on my research and experience, here are some tips to create excellent quality compost from food scraps:

  • Chop or shred large pieces to speed decomposition.
  • Alternate wet and dry materials as adding to the pile.
  • Mix or turn the pile weekly to aerate.
  • Crush eggshells to make calcium available.
  • Keep compost moist but not saturated.
  • Monitor internal temperature – 130-150F is ideal.
  • Allow finished compost to cure for 2-4 weeks before using.
  • Store compost in a covered bin or pile to retain nutrients.

Using Compost in the Garden

Compost produced from food scraps can be used in numerous ways in my vegetable and flower gardens:

  • Till into garden beds each spring before planting.
  • Make compost tea to feed plants through the growing season.
  • Top dress around established plants, bushes and trees.
  • Add to potting mix for houseplants and seed starting.
  • Mulch gardens to suppress weeds and retain moisture.
  • Build healthy soil and fertilize lawns before overseeding.

By repurposing food waste into compost, I can reduce my environmental impact and boost my garden’s productivity organically. Following best practices for composting methods, materials and application ensures successful results season after season.