Meet compost, the more eco-friendly fertiliser.
The win-win-win? Compost is a sustainable way to reduce your waste and give your plants a little love and – even better – it doesn’t cost much at all to create. Learn how to make your own compost at home with our simple steps below.
But first… what exactly is compost?
Compost is an organic alternative to chemical fertilisers commonly made from leftover fruits and vegetables, eggshells, coffee grounds and tea bags. These are then broken down via decomposition by naturally occurring micro-organisms – such as bacteria and fungi – into finer, nutrient-rich particles that can be used to fertilise plants.
The great thing about using compost over chemical fertilisers is that it helps reduce food wastes, making it an eco-friendly and sustainable option to give your plants a little love. It’s also incredibly easy to learn how to make compost at home – you’ll probably already have what you need.
How to make your own compost at home
1. Gather the essentials
These are common items you’ll find lying around your home – which is why making your own compost is so simple! Here’s what you’ll need:
A container: You may start with a container that can hold up to five litres of contents (be sure it’s something you don’t mind getting a little funky!). Drill some holes into its sides and bottom and make sure the container is clean and dry. with holes drilled into its sides and bottom. Cut off the top of the container so it’s easier to place the waste. Put the top back on after adding the waste.
Materials with carbon content a.k.a “browns”: You can also include materials with carbon content (usually called “browns”) into your compost. Some examples include dry leaves and sugarcane pulp. Cut them into small pieces to allow micro-organisms to break them down more easily.
Materials containing nitrogen a.k.a “greens”: These include nutrient-rich black soil, chicken manure and “greens” – raw food scraps such as fruit peels, discarded vegetable parts and soya bean dregs. Avoid oily and cooked food as well as sour-ish food such as lemon and lime. Cut them into small pieces. Don’t forget your coffee grounds! As a natural nitrogen source, coffee grounds make an excellent base for DIY compost mixes.
2. Starting the process
Place a compact layer of about three centimetres-deep of dry leaves or grass at the bottom of the container. Compress the layer by pressing it down with your gloved hands or a tool.
3. Add the “browns”
Before adding, make sure these are damp, but not too wet that water is dripping at bottom of the container. If they are too dry, soak them in water (ones that have been used to wash rice is a good option!) for about a minute. Compress the layer till it is about three centimetres thick.
4. Cover with the “greens”
Add another compact layer – about one centimetre thick – of nitrogen-rich materials or “greens”. Compacting helps the heat to build up more easily. Alternate between the layers until the container is about 80 per cent full.
5. Put a final layer of coffee grounds
A final layer of coffee grounds to absorb any unpleasant odour and cover the container with the lid. Put a plastic bag over the container to keep the heat and moisture in.
6. Wait two weeks
Once two weeks have passed, pour the contents of the container onto a big plate and turn and aerate them with a spade. If the materials are too dry, add some rice water. If they are too wet, add some dry leaves. Repeat once every week for the next three months.
7. …and the compost is done!
The compost is done when you do not see any more food and other waste in it. It is dark brown, with a tinge of black. It should feel soft and spongy, and not sticky, and there should be no foul odour (but an earthy smell).
Originally by Lea Wee, The Straits Times / Additional Reporting by Debby Kwong + Willaine G. Tan