Rather than simply throwing away your food scraps, you can use them to create nutrient-rich soil to help your plants to thrive. We asked composting expert and Nutrilite El Petacal Agriculture Manager Alberto Vega about all things composting to help you get started on your own composting journey! Here’s what he had to say:
Why should people compost? The composting process is an activity where living organisms (fungi, bacteria or even worms) decompose the organic matter contained in the fibers and tissues of organic wastes. This process stabilizes a dark solid called humus, a safe product that is free of weed seeds and pathogens. Humus helps boost the soil’s fertility, because it increases the soil’s ability to retain nutrients that plants need to grow. It stimulates the biological activity, raising the soil’s dynamism, and gives the soil a higher capacity to hold moisture and to provide structure for roots to grow. Plus, it can be great of our environment. It’s estimated that composting could keep up to 30 percent of waste away from landfills.
What is the composting process? First of all, you’ll need an organic waste source to be mixed with some drier and harder wastes. To that base, other ingredients like minerals can be added. A space or a container depending on the volume of the available residue must also be available in order to house the composting mix after stirring. Time is also very important, as the process can’t be rushed; it takes time to have a stabilized product appropriate to be use on your soil.
What can be composted? The main source of compostable ingredients are organic wastes like agricultural and forestry residues, manure, food processing residues, kitchen and garden waste, and biosolids (organic solids from treated sewage) to name a few. There isn’t a strict formula: you can adapt your mix according to the available residues. You just need to be aware of your mix: the greener the mix the faster it will be at decomposing organic wastes and ensuring best results.
Do we compost on our farms? Yes we do! One of the main fresh produce from El Petacal farm is alfalfa, so when the environmental conditions and the production demands allow it, we can use it as our main ingredient to start a new composting process. Also, we have a vermicomposting activity, where the main objective is to raise worms (red wrigglers) that helps us to obtain humus leachates and solid humus, bi-products from this activity. From this composting process, beneficial microorganisms thrive, which we use to enrich our soils and raise the biological activity in our crop’s soils.
If you’re interested in starting to compost for your home garden, grab a bucket with a lid for your kitchen. Throw your left overs (like coffee filters, coffee grounds, egg shells, food scraps, plant cuttings) in. You’ll want to keep out any meat and fish products and fruit peels that might have high levels of pesticides, like oranges or bananas. Then, read up on this guide on how to optimize your compost pile and incorporate it into your garden.