In my previous post, I talk about how I go about composting in HDB. If you have started composting, or still have doubts about composting, you might find this post useful as I would go through the uses of compost and some additional tips you might wish to take note of, especially if you are staying in HDB.
Firstly, how do you determine when your compost is ready? This would have to depend on how you are going to use your compost. As a general rule of thumb, the compost is ready as long as it is dark, crumbly and without too much objects that you could identify. It would be normal for compost to have some twigs and branches because these take a really long time to decompose. In contrary to popular belief, the finish product does not necessary smell like poop. They would carry some smell but not in a way that is repulsive.
Now, we would explore the 3 easy ways that you could use the compost.
#1 As a mulch
This is my favourite method to use my compost. I would just lie it on top of the soil and use it as a mulch cum slow release fertilizer. When you water the soil, the nutrients from the compost would flow downwards with the water. Also, the tiny bugs, ants and/or worms would be more than happy to help you work the compost deep into the soil. A bonus benefit of using compost as a mulch would be its ability to retain moisture in the soil. However, do take not that fungi might grow overnight on the compost but they are not a call for concern unless you have pets and kids who might pluck them off and eat them. They would usually wither and die by the next day due to the sun light and heat. Do take note that if you use this method, be sure that your compost don’t stink (more on that below). If not your neighbours might not be very happy.
#2 As a soil
Even if the compost is not completely finely decomposed, you could use it as a layer beneath the soil. It would continue to decompose as long as it is moist. In fact, I believe the compost would produce some moisture for the plants as water is generated from the decomposing process. Take note to cover the compost wih a thick layer of soil so as to prevent attracting the bugs. To test for the thickness of the soil, simply pour water over it to make sure you couldn’t see any compost.
#3 To brew compost tea
If you search for videos about compost tea on youtube, people are having incredible results with the compost tea. So I decide to experiment and make my own compost tea, the simple way. That is I put my compost in a mesh cloth, then into a jar and I soak the compost. However, after a few days, my soil starts to attract flies, a lot of flies and they are slowly creeping into my kitchen. If you want, you can try giving your plants a dose of compost tea (diluted preferably to the extent of no smell) once a week and see how it goes. Just be warned that bugs might be enjoying the compost tea as much as your plants. Having said that, the method that I use encourage anaerobic bacteria. You could still create a wonderful compost tea if you use an air pump to provide oxygen into the concoction. Here is a good tutorial on how to brew a compost tea.
Here are some additional tips that I think would be useful in composting.
Why is my compost so smelly?
A smelly compost might indicate that there is not enough oxygen in the compost pile. When that happens, the aerobic bacteria, which needs oxygen, would be taken over by anaerobic bacteria, which works without oxygen. Compost by anaerobic organisms smells bad.
Alternatively, your compost could have too much greens in it, causing it to be wet. You want your compost bin to be moist, not wet. If there is excessive water in the compost pile, the pile would become compacted and oxygen level would drop. Once that happens, anaerobic bacteria would take over and as attentive readers of my blog, you should know what would happen next right?
To solve this, turn your pile more often and/or introduce browns, that encourage aeration, such as egg cartons, to introduce oxygen. A quick method would be to add coffee ground into your pile. It would instantly cover up the smell and give a refreshing coffee smell. However, do take note that the smell would only last for a few days before the coffee ground is composted, and coffee ground might increase the acidity of the compost.
There doesn’t seem to be much activity in my compost bin. Why?
If there are not enough moisture in your bin, the composting would seem to take forever. Add more greens or add more water into your compost. If you want to speed up the composting process, increase the compost surface area, i.e. tearing the browns and greens into smaller pieces. The microorganisms are really tiny, so don’t expect them to eat their food, which is many many many times their size, quickly.
Help! There are flies, maggots and I don’t know what in my compost!
So far, I haven’t encounter such issues but I’m guessing the rotten food smell very palatable to critters. This is just part of nature and there is really nothing to worry about because they would help to speed up the process of composting. If you are sqeamish about creepy crawlies, it is best to prevent them from getting into your compost in the first place by not putting meat, greasy food and dairy food, keeping a lid and covering the food scraps with browns like dead leaves and newspaper. All this would help to prevent any odours that would signify a buffet to the crawlies.
There you have it, hope my posts would be beneficial to you as you embark on a composting journey that would help reduce waste and boost the vitality of your plants.