These last two years I have spent experimenting with various community composting methods for our apartment and once a system fell in place, it got boring. Nothing more to work on, no more failures and no more small, sweet triumphs.
I thought of composting for my own garden without depending on the community compost sold at a price. We use Up’Grade (Reap Benefit) method for this which is a cocopeat-based inoculant sold at Rs 9 per kg. I bought 3 kgs of Up’Grade from the facility office and got going.
For large-scale composting, we use rectangular-shaped milk crates and all the kitchen waste mixed with the inoculant goes in all at once. The temperature goes up quickly and the process starts. But at individual level, I could go on adding waste day by day and hence, had my own doubts about the thermophilic stage which is essential for killing pathogens and weed seeds. Anyway, no harm in experimenting, right?
I bought a plastic basket and punched a few holes at the bottom. To prevent leachate leak, I placed a few handfuls of Up’Grade at the bottom and started layering the kitchen waste. Whenever I had time, I mixed the waste with the inoculant. When in a hurry, I layered it and placed a plastic sieve to keep fruit flies at bay. Yes, I did chop the rejects into smaller pieces for faster breakdown and in fact, grated the watermelon skins. No citrus peels went in.
The experiment started on November 19. I put almost all the cooked leftovers into this bin. It took 8-9 days to fill up. I dug my hands in once in a while to check the temperature. It was warm and I could see white fungal mold working on the waste. A few worms here and there, too. No mixing or turning was done. No leachate loss. No smell whatsoever.
When I opened the bin on December 7th, 20 days after the experiment started, all the cooked kitchen waste had disappeared. Uncooked greens had become brown and stringy. On the same day, I threw in a few handfuls of old compost, mixed it well, put a cloth bag around the bin to prevent moisture loss, covered it with the sieve and left it untouched for one more week.
When I took out the compost today, it smelled so much like the one we make in our community. Nice to touch. I have no plans of sieving this compost as there are only a few semi-done brown leaves in it. A few days later, it will go back to my pots where earthworms are doing what they do best: nourish the plants.
This much of compost is enough for the plants growing in two balconies. The remaining kitchen waste will be sent for community composting. So far I have spent Rs 200 for two bins and one sieve, and Rs 30 for 3 kgs of Up’Grade. In all, I might have used not more than 1.5 kgs of Up’grade to compost eight days of kitchen waste.
I cannot say I have found all the answers for a non-messy home composting method. If you give it a try, you might face a different set of challenges. But I am more than satisfied with the compost I have got and ready to get started with a new bin.
To procure Up’Grade, please contact:
#1023, 3rd Cross, 13th Main, HAL 2nd Stage, Indiranagar,
Bangalore – 560038, India