Instead of tossing food scraps, why not turn them into fertilizer?

Published Jul 5, 2020 09:00 a.m. ET
iStock / Grahamphoto23

The whole world is working towards learning how to waste less food as we waste millions of tonnes of perfectly good food each and every single year. It’s irresponsible, especially during a time when so many humans live with food scarcity due to a lack of money to buy it, and it’s not just big restaurants and chain stores who are doing it.

In fact, those corporations run establishments that are some of the best at reducing their food waste because it was not free. The true criminals behind this action are everyday people like you and me, but there are things that we can do to minimize our impact on the planet and our waste, like composting our food scraps.

How to turn food scraps into fertilizer

Composting is something that most families used to do once upon a time because it was an affordable way to add nutrients to the gardens without having to head to the local nursery and spend money on something that could be easily obtained for free. At the same time, a lot of people don’t necessarily feel like they’ve got the room, thanks to the changes in society that have pushed thousands into apartment buildings and stacked residences with no outdoor space, so it makes sense that the practice has died out a bit, but it’s still incredibly easy.

If you want to turn all of your leftover food waste into something that can work for you, then you will need to do a few things, like getting or building a compost bin, and then filling it consistently with the ingredients that will come together into a magical stew of fertilizers. However, there are only certain types of food waste that should be put into a compost bin, and it is important to pay attention to which ones will work best, and the few that might be good to avoid.

Which food scraps are safe for composting?

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Peels
  • Coffee grounds
  • Eggshells

What doesn’t belong in compost?

Fat based foods like meat, gravy, and margarine are not compost friendly at all, as they never break down completely and they contribute virtually nothing to the compost pile. Tomatoes should also be avoided whenever possible, otherwise wherever you use the fertilizer, you’ll find small trails of tomato plants, and no one wants those cropping up in a flower garden making it even more difficult to keep the area free of weeds, and competing plants. They are also high in acid, so they are one of the few veggies that should never find their way into your compost bin.

How long do food scraps take to break down?

It truly depends on all that you’re putting into it, and the environment that you live in, but a compost bin can take an entire year before it is filled with a nutrient-dense all-natural organic fertilizer that is ready to add to the garden. This might sound like a bit of a long wait, but good things generally do, and we promise that it’s more than worth the time spent once you get your hands on some of the natural goodness that comes out of composting.

Additives that will help to break down the food scraps

Food scraps are chocked full of essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, but when they start to break down, things can get pretty gross. As everything turns to slimy goo, things like fruit flies will move in, laying their eggs, and what comes of it won’t be all that useful in the garden. What you’ll need is a fair amount of both brown and green ingredients that aren’t food like:

  • Grass trimmings
  • Leaves
  • Manure
  • Brush trimmings
  • Dust (gathered from sweeping and dusting indoors)
  • Dryer lint

Earthworms

Earthworms absolutely love to find their way into a compost pile, and many gardeners will add them to their bin to help break things down much faster. So, if you’re feeling up to it, adding a few dozen earthworms which can be found at your local fishing or hobby shop can do a world of good for your compost bin.

The benefits of a DIY compost bin

Learning how to waste less food is the number one benefit to having a compost bin because it will mean fewer garbage bags, less hauling things out to the curb, and so much less trash. However, most people enjoy maintaining a compost bin due to the powerful fertilizer that they get in return, which is excellent for growing all different kinds of plants, including cannabis.

How to make and use a DIY compost bin

Compost bins from the store are relatively generic, but you can turn almost any kind of container into a compost bin, as long as it is large enough to contain everything that you plan on putting inside it over the course of a year.

  1. Find a bucket with a lid or a similar-sized container.

  2. Drill holes into the bottom of the container.

  3. Create a sturdy base using soil for it to rest on.

  4. Add in all of your food scraps.

  5. Stir the compost once per month.

  6. Add moisture to the soil using water.

  7. Drill holes in the top of the container to let out the gasses that will form.

  8. After 2 or 3 months, you can check on your compost bin to see what’s inside, and if you’ve been really careful about the ingredients that you’ve added, and you’ve continuously fed the bin, it shouldn’t take any more than 3-6 months to see a fair bit of compost that is ready to use in the garden.

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