Apr 03 2012
I took an active interest in composting during my many visits to Perth.
My sister and her family migrated to Australia over 10 years ago and my wife Stephanie also lived in Perth for five years or so. I admire the Aussies for their recycling culture and love for the environment. Once, when I was disposing something into the dustbin, my sister Pamela told me not to, but to put it in another bucket where it would go into the compost in their garden. Hence began my journey into the world of composting.
About three years ago, when I visited my wife Stephanie at her rented home, I told her I would start a compost for her in the backyard. It was my first attempt at composting from scratch. I think it did fairly okay but then Stephanie had to return to Singapore less than a year later.
Back in Singapore, we live in an apartment. Composting is much easier if you have a garden but we were determined to have a compost bin so that we can recycle waste and turn it into something useful—fertilizer.
To begin composting, you need a bin. We got a plastic bin with a lid from a neighbourhood store that sells pails and brooms. You need to drill a few holes into the bin on all sides and at the bottom for air circulation. Once that’s done, you’re ready to start your compost.
The ingredients to a compost are essentially made up of “greens” and “browns.” Greens are nitrogen-rich ingredients like raw vegetables, fruits, grass cuttings, and tea leaves. Browns are carbon-rich ingredients that are slow to rot such as dried leaves, dead plants, sawdust, shredded cardboard, and paper. As a general rule, the compost ratio should be 1 part greens to 2 part browns. (I usually wing it.)
I had some soil left over so I poured that into the bin first and then some dried leaves. You don’t have to start with soil, but I did that because I didn’t want to start with the greens; I was afraid it might leak from the bottom. Browns are dry you see.
I then started to put in vegetable and fruit scraps. Browns should go on top of that, and so on. You don’t need to “layer” the brown and greens, but I usually cover my greens with a layer of browns to prevent flies.
After a few months, the contents will decompose and you will get organic fertilizer, which is very good for plants.
Things that should not go into the compost are animal products like meat and fish, cooked food, dog faeces, and cat litter. (Yup no cooked food! Those will go rancid.) Egg shells are okay but wash the insides first.
The compost bin will attract flies. So a lid is important. Also, if there are a lot of flies, it could be that there are not enough browns. You can keep the bin in a shaded area or under the sun. The compost should not be wet but just a bit moist. Stirring the bin once in awhile will help the composting process. Have fun composting!