Do you wish you could compost at home, but feel daunted about getting started? It isn’t as complicated as Google would have you believe.
When we first moved to a house with our own backyard on Grand Cayman, I decided to look into composting. Our family of five produces a lot of kitchen waste, and the idea of being able to convert the broccoli my kids refused to eat into a natural fertiliser for the garden seemed a win-win.
Turning to the internet for information, I was overwhelmed by an unfathomable amount of advice about anaerobic decomposition, how to balance nitrogen and carbon, why I would need redworms and/or an overpriced tumbler. My eyes glazed over and my good intentions faltered.
Luckily for me, my neighbour Lori, who is not only a wonderful gardener, but has also lived in the Caribbean all her life, came to the rescue. She taught me a simple method that she has been reliably using for years.
It turns out that all you need is a Rubbermaid bin. The science is there — oxygen, heat, chemical balance — but there are no convoluted formulas or expensive equipment to buy. All you need to do is drill a few air holes in the Rubbermaid, toss in a mixture of kitchen vegetable waste with some dead leaves or grass clippings, and let Cayman’s tropical climate do the rest.
I’m sure there’s a recommended ratio of brown-to-green material, and perhaps a tumbler would speed up the process to some extent, but neither is essential. The end product is a dark, nutrient-rich hummus that does a fabulous job enriching the poor-quality soil we have in our flower beds.
I keep two tubs on the go, letting one rot down while I fill up the next, which takes about six months. Yes, there are sometimes a few critters lurking in the bin, but I try not to inspect too closely! With the lids on, there is no smell and they don’t take up much space.
I also have a small container under the kitchen sink for the food scraps (vegetable trimmings, egg shells, coffee grounds — no meat or cooked food to avoid attracting rats) and empty it every other day. And that’s all it takes.
Working with the Decco team on the Integrated Solid Waste Management System, or ISWMS, I know the plans for composting take an equally low-tech approach. While only yard waste will be composted — household food waste would require additional curbside collections — horticultural debris accounts for around a third of all waste currently sent to the landfill.
The sustainable alternative is windrow composting, which simply accelerates the decay process and allows vegetation to rot back down to its natural state.
Whatever the scale, it seems the old ways are often the best ways.