Misconceptions of Composting

by in Composting, Gardening 24/03/2014

Before we get into how to compost, I want to address any perceived drawbacks and show that the benefits of composting greatly outweigh any challenges. I will also point out that some apparent negatives to composting are really myths, and the ones that are true can easily be dealt with.

There are some legitimate downsides to composting or everyone would be utilizing this resource instead of buying commercial fertilizers and other lawn care additives.

The downside is the time it takes to upkeep, the space to house a composting bin and the amount of time before your first mature compost will be ready.

The benefits of composting far outweigh any perceived downside. For the time you invest, the space you give up in your yard and some patience you and your yard will be rewarded handsomely with:
Woman using compost bin

  • Money saved by not using commercial fertilizer.
  • Increased water retention in your soil. If there is a dry spell your garden and lawn that has been treated with compost will fare better than those that have used commercial products.
  • Improved plant growth. You will also find an increased amount of fruit or vegetables that your plants produce when using mature compost.
  • Protection for your plants from diseases or pests that can destroy your vegetation.

The environment also benefits from the time you invest into composting. In addition to eliminating the amount of waste that goes to the city dump.

In some cases organic material makes up to 45% of the garbage that ends up in a dump – this can be greatly reduced by composting!

And there’s more:

  • If there is an area of contaminated soil, you can add compost to assist in the “cleaning” process.
  • Compost can help prevent and stop erosion.
  • Eliminates the need for adding chemical pesticides to your garden or lawn.
  • Decreases the amount of methane gas that is produced at landfills (by reducing the amount of organic matter that is thrown away)

Like any new project or habit, composting will take some time to get used to. Once you have completed the initial start-up process the time and energy you need to maintain the pile is not a lot.

Not Convinced?

Still think the task of making compost will be too hard to get started and time consuming?

  • Getting started is easy. The materials used are absolutely free and are readily available. Compare that with the ever rising costs of commercial fertilizers and other gardening products in the market today. All you need is a little extra effort to find the best materials for your compost pile, but otherwise, everything’s for free.
  • Money savings AND higher quality! Not only are you saving money, but the compost you produce provides more nutrients and minerals needed by my plants than commercial organic or synthetic fertilizers. The overall effect of compost is also longer than commercially available fertilizers. It’s free and it works better, who wouldn’t want that? Plus, if you organize your ingredients just right, you can provide a whole lot more range of nutrients.

Composting really is a no-brainer.

  • Save water (and even more money!) Another good reason would be the benefits of compost to the soil structure. When applied to the soil, compost can help the soil be more resistant to erosion, improve its retention of water, and in some types of soil (like clay) it can reduce the chance the soil becomes compact. This is also important for farmers since compost can make the soil easier to till conserving time and fuel needed to operate the machines.
  • Weed and disease control. With the right composting technique, the process can kill those troublesome weeds as well as pests and disease-causing organisms present in the materials being composted. High temperature composting is the technique I am talking about. Although, this technique is not the backyard variety but rather a more laboratory or industrial type variety, I still find it a good reason why we should make composts.

    There have been studies which indicate that using compost can suppress the growth of diseases in crops. Other studies also show that crops grown over compost rich soils can resist better pest or insect attacks. Likewise, some news and observations in the field also shows that crops grown using compost bear produce that can be stored longer. If that’s not reason enough, I don’t know what else you are looking for.

  • Soil restoration. It is also found out that compost works well as an antidote for soils that are toxic with agricultural chemicals. Compost can balance the levels of soil acidity, and helps farmers to go organic after years of using synthetic agricultural products
  • Save the environment. Using compost together with the soil can build soil carbon which can eventually reduce the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It may take a lot of compost to have a positive effect on the greenhouse gases but that fact is quite useful as well.

    As mentioned earlier, almost half of the waste in landfills is organic. Think about the environmental impact if everyone recycled their organic waste instead of having it picked up by garbage trucks! Now you know why we try to convince everyone we know to compost!

I hope everyone reading this up to this point is ready to compost. But even will all these wonderful money-savings and environmental benefits, some people have misconceptions about composting that prevent them from getting started.

The biggest false perceptions of composting is that is a messy and smelly process. Even if this were true, I believe the benefits far outweigh dealing with any smells. But others still prefer buying their fertilizers, soil amendments or conditioners, and mulch from their garden stores to avoid all the hassle of reading about compost and actually making one. Now those folk have not excuse, because I’m about to show that composting does NOT have to be a smelly or messy process!

Compost Smells: This and Other Composting Myths

Womand and young girl with compost bin in kitchen
Composting is a natural and simple process and yet it has been complicated by machines, fallacies, misinformation, myths, and misunderstandings that came out due to erroneous publications and aggressive commercial marketing approaches. Some of these misinformed facts have been passed around so many times that the general perception has become truth. An example would be the seemingly accepted fact that all compost smells. But before we go into that, let’s discuss some other composting myths first.

Myth: Composting requires a lot of work

Truth: Composting is a natural process which involves basically the elements of nature doing the job for you. All you need is to gather all the materials, lay it on, and let nature do her job. Composting is a low maintenance activity as well. You only need to turn the compost file every once in a while to keep the air flowing to quicken the decomposition process and that’s it. You practically sit and wait for the compost to finish.

Myth: Composting is limited to farms and wide open spaces

Truth: On the contrary, people living in urban areas who have no luxury for space can create their own composting bin from a trash can. How much space would that take up? Also, there is another technique which you can use, the so-called vermicomposting which involves the use of red worms in a contained bin where you feed them table scraps.

Myth: Composting needs precise measurements

Truth: Even though composting ideally would be best achieved with the right combination of greens and browns elements, having the exact measurements is not that necessary. Estimates work just fine. And those neatly piled up layers of composting piles you see in commercials, books, pamphlets and brochures of composting products, those are all for show. You don’t need to copy those, composting works the same way as you pile them up haphazardly.

Myth: You need specially formulated chemicals as starters or activators

Truth: Well, despite the claims of commercially available products that applying them to the compost pile will speed up the process of decomposition, buying them is not really necessary. It is often the practice to just throw in some finished compost into the newly formed compost pile and that itself will serve as the activator to get things started. There’s no need to buy those expensive stuff.

Myth: Adding yeast will boost the compost’s performance

Truth: This is not true at all. What you’re doing is just wasting your money by adding yeast to the compost pile. Yeast does not do anything to the compost pile and neither does it affect the performance quality of the compost.

Myth: Animals are attracted to composting piles

Truth: Yes, this to some degree is true. Composting piles do attract the occasional cat, dog or raccoon. Small critters will likely go for open compost piles and for piles that have kitchen scraps like meat, fat, dairy products, bones and pet manure to the pile.

As I will show in later articles when we get into composting containers, this can be easily be managed.

Myth: Compost smells

Truth: Compost should not smell! If you find bad smelling compost, then the maker did a poor job picking the materials for the compost pile.

Other composting myths exist and it would be best to do your research first before accepting them as truth.

As we get into the basics of composting and techniques, you’ll see firsthand how these myths are inaccurate. Composting doesn’t have to be a done on a large scale, you can start small and grow if you like the process and results.


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