To be honest I really don’t think there are any REAL disadvantages to Composting! But I think we do need to make this a fair contest, so here are my views.
Healthy soil is soil with a structure that can hold the correct amount of air, moisture and nutrients, needed for the smooth development of plants. Relying on the content and texture of soil already in the ground is sometimes not enough to meet plant needs, and addition of organic material or nutrients is needed to improve the growing environment.
Composting is the use of household or garden waste to produce decomposed material that can later be added to enrich the soil with nutrients. It balance the soil structure and make sit more capable of retaining components essential to the growth of plants.
Advantages of composting
Affordable and waste-minimizing
Composting not only provides a cheap, abundant input for the garden, but also reduces household or garden waste and is a way of efficiently managing disposal of unwanted material in the home.
Enriches the soil with nutrients and healthy bacteria
It provides nutrients which may not be available in the original soil. Compost as a nutrient source is highly versatile and can be used for growing crops, maintaining garden perennials or planting of annuals. Also, it supplies a range of healthy bacteria to the soil which help to improve the soil environment by reducing the risk of disease from other unwanted bacteria or fungus.
Supplies the soil with essential humus
Once mixed into soil, compost gradually converts into humus. This is broken down leaf matter and is incredibly useful for growing of plants and crops as it holds up to ninety per cent of its own weight in water therefore helping to keep soil moist. As well as holding moisture, humus is able to keep soil aerated through texture, and acts as a buffer in acidic or alkaline soils by regulating pH.
A better balance of Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium
Natural compost has a balance of N, P and K along with microorganisms which means that plants will be supplied with a rich mix of the nutrients they actually need. Synthetic fertilizers on the other hand, though nutrient-dense, often have excessive nitrogen levels to save on costs which is either wasteful or harmful to the development of plants.
Absolute control of materials being composted
Composting at home allows materials to be selected carefully, whilst store-bought compost may contain undesirable contents as a result of low-grade input materials of unknown origin. Though not always detrimental to plant and crop health, materials such as sewage sludge often contain high concentrations of harmful bacteria and heavy metals which may remain active in the final compost product.
Improve soil texture
In clay soils, good compost well-mixed into the soil can increase permeability which is important for most plants and crops grown in the garden. For sandy soils, it can help to provide extra nutrients and improve the nutrient-holding capacity of the soil by reducing the quantity of nutrients washed away through watering and rain.
Improves workability of the soil
Good compost improves the workability of garden soil and makes planting and maintenance easier once mixed in as needed. If prepared properly, home-made compost can be of much higher quality and suitability to local environments than commercial equivalents.
Advantages of vegetable composting
Vegetable composting involves separating green and vegetable materials from odoriferous food items such as meat and eggs to be composted. One of the main advantages, particularly to house-keeping is separation of organic and inorganic material in the kitchen.
It helps to prevent unwanted odors
Separating out waste food from waste packaging and other recyclable materials means that the decomposing food can be stored in a smaller receptacle elsewhere, for example outside or close to a back door. The smaller container holding the waste food can be transferred directly to the composter once full or once smells start to arise.
Also, there are indoor composters available commercially which can be used to compost small quantities of weekly vegetable food waste. These units are specially designed to compost indoors by controlling unwanted smells and by preventing the introduction of unwanted pests or disease.
Helps to recycle nutrients
As well as using up unwanted food scraps and providing a useful repository for vegetable waste, vegetable composting helps to close the nutrient loop from vegetables grown locally to return them back to the soil rather than losing them to landfill.
Time efficiency and less energy
If building or managing a composter is deemed too time-consuming, vegetable waste can simply be chopped up, tipped into a trench roughly one-foot deep and covered with soil. If done several months before the growing season, plants or crops can be seeded directly above the vegetable waste which will have decomposed into a source of humus, nutrients and moisture.
Advantages of garden composting
As with kitchen composting, using waste garden material reduces the need to transport waste to dump sites, and can potentially save on costs. By composting garden waste, money and labor is saved both on the cost of disposing garden waste and on the purchasing and carrying of soil additives such as manure. Garden composting is also much less likely to create bad odors or attract large pests, as the contents are less nutritious than vegetables or fruits and therefore less appealing.
Disadvantages of composting
Composting cane be time consuming, the time needed to allow waste material to break down into a useable garden materials is one of the major disadvantages of composting. The time taken varies depending on local climate, the materials used and the presence or absence of organisms able to break the material down before its use.
Increases the risk of unwanted infestations
Many different unwanted organisms can use the non-decomposed matter as a source of food, and may be attracted to the area which can create problems. Such problems, which include rats and other pests can however be managed through the use of appropriate repellents, baits or composter design.
Composting is energy intensive and restricted in some areas
It requires a great amount of energy from gardeners to build and manage compost completely, and not all municipalities allow it due to the potential for attracting unwanted vermin. If looking to compost, it is worthwhile finding out which local rules apply, and choosing a composting method accordingly. If the use of a composter is not allowed on the grounds of environmental safety, it may be possible to use the method for burying vegetable waste in a trench and covering with soil as a means of composting without the risk of pests.
How to speed up the composting process:
- Sort out materials in order of speed of decomposition. Food items should be kept aside from garden waste. Garden waste generally has a much higher cellulose content which is harder to breakdown; therefore keeping this separate from food waste will allow usable compost to be available from the food composter in a much shorter space of time. Materials can also be cut up to reduce their surface area which helps to reduce composting times.
- Ensure that whatever item you are using to make the compost is constructed and positioned appropriately. The organisms which break down food material require oxygen, water and heat as well as energy from the food; therefore making sure the composter provides these inputs ensures a faster rate of decomposition.
- Oxygen supply can be aided through the incorporation of holes or gaps into the composter design. If the composter is made from brick, these should be positioned with small gaps in between to provide a flow of air, whilst wooden composters can have holes drilled into the sides or parts constructed from pallets and netting to provide natural gaps.
- Temperature and water can also be controlled depending on local climate. If in a hot, dry climate the composter should be positioned out of direct sunlight to retain moisture as much as possible, to avoid bad odors and to minimize the risk of attracting pests. Water can also be added sporadically to ensure that the composter contents are sufficiently moist.
Compost needs warmth to decompose quickly. In a cooler climate, position the composter somewhere with exposure to sunlight at some point during the day to increase microbial activity.
However, given that the bacteria breaking down the matter create their own heat, composter temperature is less important than the moisture level. For garden composters, water will need to be added on a reasonably regular basis, and can also have some NPK fertilizer added to speed up the composting process.
Composting is a great way of improving soil texture, availability of nutrients and soil moisture. Many commercial compost products are of questionable origin, and though providing nutrients and other benefits may contain unwanted parts which can be harmful to plants.
Compost can be made at home using garden material or waste from the kitchen. Both have advantages and drawbacks; however kitchen waste will produce compost in the shortest time provided the pile is properly managed.
As well as the nutritional benefits, composting is an easy way to contribute to local environmental efforts, keeping nutrients in the loop and reducing the quantities of material going to landfill. Though relatively easy to do, composting takes time and some level of attention to ensure that the results are effective and non-problematic. However, as a last note it is important to check with local authorities that composting at home is permissible, as some municipalities disallow such home products on the basis of environmental safety. In such cases, trench-composting is a useful solution.