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Composting: 5 Myths Debunked

Composting: 5 Myths Debunked

Composting is obviously great for our gardens.  We also know it’s a great way to reduce the amount of organic waste that goes to landfill. But there are plenty of myths surrounding composting too.  If you live in the city, chances are that one of these myths has stopped you from seriously considering ‘getting your hands dirty’ through composting. Here are the likely offenders:

Myth 1: Composting takes up too much space

Myth 2: Composting is complicated and difficult

Myth 3: Composting is an outdoors activity

Myth 4: Composting takes a long time, for limited reward

Myth 5:  Composting stinks!

This blog takes a look at each of these myths and debunks them one by one.

 I've got worms, what's your excuse?

Myth 1: Composting takes up too much space

When we think of composting,  we often envisage the hot compost pile, a huge mound of weird and wonderful organic material that takes up a good chunk of the avid gardener’s backyard. Not cool for apartment living, or even someone with a small patch of ground attached to their humble abode, true?

False! Actually, you can compost in the smallest of urban spaces,  inside or out. Bokashi is a great way start a compost heap right in your kitchen these days, and the process can literally take place in a plastic tub under your kitchen sink. Likewise vermicomposting. A bucket is all the space you need on your porch or even inside to start getting rid of your organic waste responsibly. If you have a small yard, there are a tonne of compost tumblers available commercially these days, which take up limited space. Same goes for worm composting units. It’s all just a matter of assessing your space and your needs and jumping on board the compost train!

Myth 2: Composting is complicated & difficult

Think you need a PhD in agricultural science to make it in composting? Think again.

These days, I throw my food to the worms and don’t  need to give it a second thought until I have enough scraps in my kitchen to feed them again.  But whatever urban-friendly method you choose (be it vermicomposting, bokashi or a tumbler),  once you get into a good routine and understand how your composter works, the process becomes second nature: collect your scraps, feed them to the compost heap, wait for nature to take its course and harvest you black gold.

I would say in the early days, you do need to make a commitment to getting to know how your compost pile works and when it doesn’t work. Composting is not a commitment-free activity –  it requires ongoing maintenance and care. But once you do understand what your chosen composting method likes and doens’t like, you will be well on your way to a relatively care free co-existence with your compost heap.

Myth 3: Composting is an outdoors activity

If you’ve already read Myth 1, this myth has already debunked itself. Composting often does happen outdoors and if you have a verandah, courtyard  or a small patch of ground attached to your home, then maybe it’s your preference to use your outdoors space. But it’s certianly not necessary! Vermicomposting and bokashi are becoming increasingly popular composting methods, and both can be comfortably undertaken right inside your home, whether it’s under your kitchen sink, in your bathroom or laundry or anywhere. I kept my worm farm a cool dark space in my spare bedroom last summer and they thrived!

Myth 4: Composting takes a long time

It’s true that hot composting can take months to see any rewards. But does that stand true for urban composting units? No way.

Urban methods are much quicker. Bokashi, for example, takes about two weeks in the bokashi bucket and two weeks after that in the ground.  Vermicomposting is less definite, but if you are diligent and blend your food, you will see that your worms will process the food in very little time (I feed mine once a week and there is no evidence of food scraps by the time the new week has begun). That means they have digested the food and are probably already in the process of pooing it out the other end. Within six weeks you will start to notice the presence of  this poo – the ‘wormcastings’ or ‘black gold’ – starting to accumulate in your farm. This is the stuff that works wonders on our garden.

Get your hands dirty!

Get your hands dirty!

Myth 5: Composting stinks

We all know that when food rots, it starts to smell. That’s because when food rots it releases bacteria or chemicals (and the greenhouse gas methane),  and it’s these bacteria that cause nasty odours.  It’s also the result of food decomposing in an anaerobic environment – that is, without oxygen. A lack of oxygen is what makes our garbage bins smell as it causes the release of chemicals and gases.

Doesn’t that mean that compost stinks as well? After all, it is also a process of decomposing food. Many people are under the false impression that composting food will stink. But this is not true if you set up your composter properly and keep it well-maintained. Bokashi composting is a fermenting process, and so the product tends to smell acidic (a bit like pickles!). Worm composting on the other hand should be well-oxygenated, in which case it removes the toxic smell factor.

Of all the myths, I would say that this is the hardest one to debunk. That’s because it is reliant on the user to ensure foul smells don’t happen. It’s not a difficult task though and the rewards of making a small commitment to your compost will be felt by both your garden and the environment!

If your’e looking for tips and hints on how to set up your own urban worm composter, check out my guide on building an maintaining a farm in the city. Enjoy!

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