Sawdust Composting

Sawdust makes it easy to make great compost indoors or outdoors. Its especially good for indoors or a balcony. The sawdust is very effective at eliminating all smells. Go to your local sawmill or carpentry shop and purchase a bag of sawdust. About 2 or 3 kilos should be enough to get started. Then get a plastic bucket about 10 to 30 liters in size. Make sure the bucket has a lid that fits well. Drill small holes (about 1 mm diameter) in the lid. About 30 or 40 holes should be enough. The small holes will allow air to flow in and out and will keep out flies. I've also used this method without any holes in the lid, and that also works well. Experiment and see which works best for your climate and conditions.

Fruit flies may be attracted to the bin. I sprinkle some liquid EM (effective microorganisms) into my bin whenever I add some food waste. That seems to keep away the fruit flies. You can google "effective microorganisms" to find a supplier and learn more. EM has many uses around the home. EM is available in India and around the world.

Then take your food waste and put it inside on one side of the bottom. Mix it with some sawdust and sprinkle some water or EM on it. Then cover it with dry sawdust (not too much, just enough to cover). The next day, do the same thing at another location inside the bucket. If you notice any smells or mold, just cover them with some dry sawdust. Very easy! You may notice some mycillium (white fungal threads) growing. They will usually be thin white threads that may look like mold. That's a good sign because the fungus is harmless and will help break down and digest the sawdust.

You can easily make a water/EM sprinkle bottle. Just get a plastic water bottle with a lid. Punch a small hole in the middle of this lid. This makes it easy to sprinkle on just the right amount of water or EM. If your family makes a lot of food waste, you can make 2, 3 or 4 sawdust buckets to handle all of it. You can also use a larger bin to handle a lot of food waste.


When the bucket is about half full, just let it sit for 6-12 weeks so it can fully compost. You need to mix up the contents once a week or so. Mixing means the bottom material (usually moister) gets raised up and mixed with the top material (usually drier). If it gets too dry, just sprinkle some water or EM to always keep it moist but not too wet. Likewise, if it seems too wet, mix in some dry sawdust. The food will break down quickly, but the sawdust takes longer to fully break down. Keeping the bucket only half full makes it easy to mix and stir when needed. If the bucket does get full, it's easy to mix by pouring the full bucket into an empty bucket. If the contents are not mixed and stirred once in a while, the bottom material may start to smell. With regular mixing, it's easy to avoid all smells. And EM is good at eliminating smells.

Remember that the composting process needs 4 main ingredients in the right balance: Air (oxygen), Carbon materials (the sawdust in this case), Food waste (a nitrogen source) and Moisture. When the food waste is all decomposed, the bacteria will focus on eating the remaining sawdust. Remember that as the bacteria eat the food waste, they need to also digest some of the sawdust for carbon. Carbon material is like the energy source for bacteria while nitrogen materials (like food waste) provides material for proteins and cellular structure.

When it's all decomposed, use the finished compost in a garden or potted plants. While the first sawdust bin finishes composting, make 1, 2 or more bins to handle the new food waste.

Its good to put in the bin in a location with no rain and where no dogs or young children can knock it over. If you put the bin in a sunny spot, make sure and monitor the moisture level. The hot sun will evaporate water and will cause the bacteria to work faster so it may dry out faster. Sprinkle water or water and EM inside as needed.

Don't put any meats or dairy into the sawdust bin; only vegetarian food waste. To find out how to safely compost meats, etc, do an internet search and speak to a professional composter. Composting meats and non-veg food waste must be done carefully to avoid bad smells and bad bacteria.

The sawdust is fully composted when it all breaks down and it looks like rich dark soil with a pleasant earthy smell. Because the sawdust is small particle size, it will decompose much faster than larger wood chips, leaves or sticks.


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