Composting “cheat sheet”

What should we compost?

The following materials are suitable for the usually brown-colored waste bins, but you can also compost them at home.

  • Kitchen waste: fruits, vegetables, eggshells (broken), coffee grounds, tea bags or tea leaves, etc.
  • Garden waste: wilted and cut flowers, fallen fruits and vegetables, tree branches, collected leaves, grass clippings, garden weeds, etc.
  • Other waste: untreated wood (small quantities, shredded), paper (not stained, not contaminated)

How does the composting process work?

Composting has been a well-known method in gardening for a very long time. Natural decomposition and humus formation is nature’s way of recycling materials. Composting at home helps to get some of the waste we generate in our own household back into this natural cycle. On top of these advantages, we can make excellent use of the final product of the process.

The easiest way to compost is to put wet organic materials (such as leaves or “green” food waste) in a pile and decompose it into humus, which can take months.

Modern, mechanized composting is a more complex, multi-step process that requires, water, air, and carbon- and nitrogen-containing materials. The decomposition process is aided by regular shredding of the plant material, the addition of water, and proper ventilation.

Worms and molds further break down this organic matter. Aerobic bacteria control the chemical process by converting input materials into heat, carbon dioxide, and ammonia. Ammonia is converted by the bacteria into nutrients for the plant – this is humus.

Before and after composting. On the right side we can see the high quality humus. Image source: thetravel.com

This highly fertile material can be used in various ways, for example mixing it into the soil of plants outside, or inside our homes. Humus can also boost the fertility of crops, vegetable seedlings, and fruit trees. The most efficient way to deliver the fertile humus to plants is to premix it with “conventional soil” before planting. The video below, produced by the Humus Association, illustrates the composting process: (in Hungarian language)