My Green Chapter: Composting for Beginners

What is compost?

Compost is the process of recycling food waste and converting it into a mineral and nutrient-rich ingredient to increase the fertility of your soil. The breakdown of well-balanced compost is:

  • Nitrogen: Egg shells, vegetable leftovers, fruit peels, coffee grounds and other kitchen scraps.
  • Carbon: Paper, dried leaves, branches and twigs.
  • Avoid adding: Fish, animal fats, cheese, yogurt or other dairy products as this will attract unwanted pests. Avoid pasta, baked products or bread as this will also have the same negative effect. Don’t add diseased plant material, as this can potentially spread the disease throughout the compost.

Difference between compost and fertilizer?

  • Compost is the end result of a natural decomposition process for kitchen scraps, paper and twigs. It feeds and maintains the microorganisms of the soil and contains micro and macronutrients such as potassium and nitrogen.
  • Fertilizers contain trace elements or other minerals such as iron, zinc, boron, manganese which are needed by plants (in small quantities) for healthy growth. Unlike compost, fertilizers do not improve the texture or quality of the soil structure. The fertilizer consists of concentrated minerals that are quickly absorbed by plant roots.

The phrase, ‘fertilizer nourishes plants, compost nourishes the soil’ is a simple yet accurate one. In other words, compost is what you need to improve your soil, by giving good nutrients to the ground. Fertilizers however, have nutrients to nourish the plants. Compost contains sufficient minerals required for the growth of plants. Compost and fertilizer can work hand in hand as both bring their own benefits to the overall improvement of the plant.

How to use compost?

There are various ways to use your freshly made compost. Here are two of the most common uses:

  • Soil Rejuvenation: When it comes time to plant, create a mixture of compost with soil around 2-3 inches from the surface. Plant your seeds, grass or flowers in the same area and watch them flourish over time.
  • Moisture holding mulch: Spread it around your trees, flowers or other plants with a good 2-3 inches over the surface area and leave it. That’s it! Over time it will break down giving your soil the much needed nutrients it requires. Repeat the process a couple times a year for best results. * Mulch: material (such as decaying leaves, bark, or compost) can be spread out all over plants to insulate and enrich your soil.

Other ways include sprinkling sufficient amount of compost onto your plants for revitalization of the soil. Depending on the plant, you can also spread a 1-2 inches of compost directly over your soil for the prevention of weeds. When seeding or planting a new tree, avoid adding compost directly into the hole as this will affect the root growth.

Benefits of using compost

Adding compost to your garden is extremely beneficial in topping up nutrients and rejuvenating your soil condition as well as reducing food waste. It replenishes moisture retention and improves earthworm activity. The more earthworms you see and have, the healthier the soil!

With this, you have enough reasons to compost! Putting to good use, the kitchen’s daily food waste and ultimately improving soil quality, cultivating healthy plants and saving the environment!

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