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organic composting

It’s time to stop being intimidated by organic composting! Start by building or buying a bin and adding food scraps, yard waste, newsprint, woodchips, and so on. Then let the bacteria (and worms) do what they do best — break it down!

There are tons of resources online to help you with the specific logistics of what you should add to your organic compost, how much to add, how often to turn your compost, and how long to let it cook. On our organic Noni farm, we’ve found it’s best to turn and water our organic compost every other day so those bacteria have lots of air and water to do their work.

We used to do traditional organic composting on the farm, by making a big pile of organic matter—food scraps, paper, cardboard, wood shavings, leaves, etc.—and letting the bacteria go to work. But we learned by turning the pile every other day and keeping it moist, the organic matter breaks down in 4-6 weeks and is more potent. When the compost is broken down, it becomes a substance called humus, which is essential for healthy, living soil.

How to Get Started:

DIY organic composting can be as simple or as complex as you need. You can buy or make small organic composting bins that can go right outside your kitchen window, or even inside your kitchen! To make organic compost, you mix “green” waste that is high in nitrogen (food scraps, leaves, grass clippings, etc) with “brown” scraps, which are high in carbon (paper, cardboard, woodchips) and allow microorganisms and bacteria to get to work.  They feed on your compost pile, turning it gradually into humus – a vital part of healthy soil. As long as you only compost fruits and vegetables, your organic compost shouldn’t smell much.

The hardest part is making a habit of saving all your yard and kitchen scraps and creating a composting system. It takes a while to make good organic compost, so you’ll need a bin for collecting new scraps, and a bin for curing established compost.

Quick tip! When you add humus to your soil, it makes nutrients more readily available. Think of it as feeding pre-digested nutrients to the soil and your plants.  

Spread the finished organic compost around your plants or trees and then always cover with organic mulch on top of the compost to retain the good nutrients for the soil organisms and plants.  Your garden and fruit trees will respond with new healthy growth.

Here are some additional tips for success:

  • Include more nitrogen rich scraps (from food scraps, green plants, etc) than carbon scraps (from wood shavings, cardboard, etc), but strive for balance.
  • Add nitrogen-fixing legumes to your compost, especially pigeon pea or cowpea, which are higher in nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus than animal manure, without the potential harmful pathogens or contamination from antibiotics!
  • Turn your pile every other day to incorporate oxygen, shorten the curing process, and obtain a higher heat to better kill pathogens.
  • Look for white hairs in your compost (a fungal mycelium network) to know it’s done, because the fungus can’t form until the compost is totally broken-down.
  • We also encourage you to give vermicomposting a try, so you can incorporate rich worm castings in your compost tea.