Composting is a simple and straightforward process, so this post will be simple and straightforward too. After reading this, you’ll have all of the knowledge that you need to become a successful composter. Isn’t that the real goal here?
If you still want to get into more detail after you finish this post, then check out the “For Further Reading” section at the end of the post, where I recommend other composting resources..
The truth is, you can learn to make compost successfully without reading any material at all. This short guide will help you leap past the “error” part of the trial-and-error method of composting. Reading this post will help you yield your first batch of finished compost faster and put you well on your way to being a composting expert in your own right. What are you waiting for?
- 1 What Is Composting?
- 2 The Decomposition Process
- 3 Types of Compost Bins
- 4 Home and Farm Compost Units
- 5 Initial Construction of the Pile
- 6 Correctly Managing Your Compost Pile
- 7 Managing Aeration (Oxygen)
- 8 How to Build a Compost Bin
- 9 FAQS About Compost
- 10 Tips for Success
What Is Composting?
Composting is a controlled method of breaking down organic waste materials. When this transformation is complete the finished product is compost. Compost has many uses:
- It helps repair and improve poor quality soil.
- It can be used as a replacement for peat and topsoil.
- It can be used as a natural fertilizer in greenhouses.
- It is also used on large scale projects such as farms, land reclamation, landscaping and large scale food productions.
- It is also used as a very important tool in reclaiming contaminated soil.
How Does Compost Improve Soil Condition?
Compost improves the condition of soil through altering its biological, physical and chemical properties. Some of the most obvious ways in which compost improves soil conditioning are as follows.
- It improves soil structure in clay type soil. This improved soil structure results in the clay type soil becoming firmer, more distinct and less prone to clotting. This in turn leads to better drainage, more nutrients, more aeration and ultimately, better growing conditions.
- It improves the water retention ability of sandy soil by providing a medium in which water can be retained. This results in less rapid loss of water and a more consistent source of liquid for plants. It means that sandy soils are still suitable for plants that do not like to have their roots in water for prolonged periods but that they also have access to water thus avoiding drought.
- Compost improves the fertility levels of soil which in turn means that the need to use chemical fertilizers is greatly reduced or in some cases, totally removed.
- Composting your soil increases microbial activity within the soil which leads to an increased resistance to foliar and soil borne diseases.
- The increased microbial activity caused by the addition of compost also results in increased efficiency in breaking down pesticides and similar compounds.
- The addition of compost also reduces the bioavailability of dangerous heavy metals. This is a significant issue when contaminated soils are being reclaimed as healthy soils.
How Does The Composition Process Work?
Under normal conditions organic matter would be broken into small pieces by an army of earthworms, mites, ants, beetles etc. The resulting organic material would then be further broken down by the presence of fungi, bacteria and protozoa. These microorganisms require certain temperatures to perform optimally.
When we create a compost pile we are attempting to provide the ideal conditions for the breakdown of organic matter. We do this by providing the following basic components.
- Organic matter.
When all these ‘raw materials’ come together under certain conditions we get compost. To make the process even more efficient and faster we follow certain rules.When there rules are applied consistently, the result is a higher quality compost produced faster than if left to run its natural course of events.
What Are The Essential Ingredients For Quality Compost?
The essential ingredients for quality compost are as listed previously i.e.
- Organic matter.
However, providing these ingredients alone will not provide you with quality compost. There is a specific recipe that needs to be followed and like all good recipes the result is entirely dependent on using the correct quantities of the correct ingredients in the correct way. Al l of the ingredients provided above will determine 3 important factors.
- The feedstock’s, this is the chemical makeup of the raw organic ingredients.
- The actual physical and shape and size of the feedstocks.
- The population of the microorganisms that are vital to the process.
The Decomposition Process
Your compost heap is a portion of food online, comprising classes of ever-larger inhabitants swallowing plant material along with each other. Collectively, they choose the kitchen scraps and compost along with other substances and change it too attractively rich growing substance. Within this segment I will describe (in not-too-scientific phrases ) both significant procedures — physical and chemical — which split big chunks of uncooked organic matter into smaller and smaller parts, which are finally utilized to fuel more significant cycles of existence.
Additionally, you get descriptions of the significant decomposer organisms on your mulch pile. I know that studying “bugs” is not everybody’s preferred cup of java, but I am prepared to wager you’ll get hooked on new creatures later or sooner.
In the meantime, you do not need to know who’s doing everything to handle a thriving mulch system on your garden. You merely understand how to maintain the decomposers working out.
Decomp 101: The Way Rotting Works
Composting creatures use one of two standard procedures of decomposition to break all the debris on your compost heap — physical or chemical. The procedures of physical and chemical decomposition are explained in these sections. In addition, I explain how these composters socialize on your mulch community.
Moving to bits: The bodily split
Soil invertebrates (animals lacking backbones) are still an incredibly diverse community billed with the endless job of reducing mountains of natural refuse to smaller and smaller pieces. Based on species, they also assault their work using mouthparts designed for biting, chewing, rasping, shredding, or even milling plant issues.
These diverse chomping efforts decrease more significant bits of organic matter into smaller ones using much more surface space, which subsequently allows bacteria and other compound decomposers (that I explain in the following section) to acquire a foothold and operate more efficiently.
Physical decomposers behave in the first phases of your mulch pile, however as bacterial action warms up along with the temperatures increase, they leave (or perish). When temperatures fall, you will see all kinds of movement and life as organic decomposers return into the heap to keep their job.
Freeing the enzymes: The compound breakdown
Throughout your mulch heap’s procedure for chemical decomposition, germs like bacteria and parasites release enzymes that break down complex organic compounds into simpler compounds, which decomposers can subsequently absorb in their bodies as nourishment. Other organisms get nourishment by eating the germs. And as germs die, the chemicals tied up into their bodies have been published and be available for one more production of organisms to utilize.
However, efficiently they operate, germs and other decomposers finally reach a stage where some chemicals can not be broken down any farther. These compounds of decomposition become connected to form humus, which desirable, crumbly, dark brownish result of composting. (Jump back to 1 to learn more about valuable humus.)
Maintaining equilibrium throughout the food net
The connections between members of the mulch pile community are not always favorable; however, the cows — from all of their eating and being consumed — contribute to providing you excellent compost. A food series depicts what every living organism eats to receive nutrients and energy, and subsequently, that eats it. The very first connection is a plant that’s absorbed by the next connection in the series, possibly a grasshopper, who’s subsequently eaten by means of a quail, etc. A food net depicts a broader community of organisms engaging in several food chains that are distinct. Your mulch pile acts as a food net, encouraging diverse life forms and countless people in their continuing venture of breaking and recycling organic things. These varied organisms produce a high working food internet by
- ✓ Eating, digesting, and beneficial nutrition in forms which other organisms could consume
- ✓ Regulating populations of organisms thus no special group burgeons from control
- ✓ Getting food themselves to get higher-level customers in the food web
Next are secondary customers, organisms which eat primary customers. Some of them you can spy together with the naked eye, like beetles and springtails. Others are still microscopic, such as protozoa that consume bacteria.
Tertiary customers eat leading customers. All these are the more significant (comparatively speaking) residents of your mulch pile, like centipedes and beetles, which you may readily see scurrying away once you flip past a mound of organic matter employing your fork or spade.
Who Is Doing the Hard Work?
I used to have a rest from tossing still another heap of organic matter from 1 bin to another to lean in my pitchfork, wipe my sweaty forehead, examine my achievements, and believe (slightly virtuously) I had been”composting.” Then I had the fantastic chance to choose a Master Composter class and discovered that I could not lay claim to this effort.
Though I had been supplying the ideal conditions for these, it was billions and billions (and much more billions) of decomposer organisms that have been”composting” in my behalf. I don’t mind playing second fiddle for this intriguing cast of characters. They perform their roles to perfection when I nudge them together only a bit, and then continue to carry out much if I ignore their demands completely.
In the subsequent sections, you receive a quick introduction into the creatures on the job on your mulch pile. I talk the compound decomposers original — since they do the majority of the work and then present the bodily decomposers. (For more about the distinction between chemical and physical decomposition, see the prior section”Decomp 101: The Way Exactly To Works.”) In addition, I throw in some”Interesting facts” across the way: Understanding these pieces of trivia will not make you some more productive at home, but they might provide you the advantage you will need to make it large on Jeopardy! in case you ought to aspire thus.
Counting on compound decomposers
The particular microbes involved with compound decomposition — bacteria, actinomycetes, fungi, and protozoa — will be the topic of the upcoming sections. I explain to them in the general arrangement of the population figures in a conscious composting attempt.
Bacteria develop the heating
Compounds are parasitic organisms. They are the most many chemical decomposers, including 80 to 90% of those microbes functioning on your heap. They hitch a trip into the compost celebration on your primary ingredients; therefore, the kinds and amounts of bacteria change with every pile you assemble. The greater variety in your components, the greater variety of your decomposers, and finally, your final compost is going to have more nutrition and valuable characteristics.
Different germs thrive at various temperature ranges. When temperatures rise or fall, judgment inhabitants die or be inactive as well as also other species carry over to restrain the activity. As bacterial inhabitants flourish — eating, reproducing, and dying — that they give off heat for a by-product.
Interesting fact: One production of bacteria on your mulch pile lives just 20 to half an hour. Kinda gives new meaning to the expression, “So much to do, and little time!”
More germs: Actinomycetes get in the act
As previously bacteria inhabitants consume all of the easy-to-break-down chemicals, including simple sugars, actinomycetes (a-tin-oh-mahyseet-EEZ) take more to operate on complicated organic materials like bark and fibrous or woody stalks.
Actinomycetes are naturally-occurring germs, though they shape long, branching threads or filaments which look similar to bacterial structures compared to germs. Contrary to other varieties of germs on your mulch, you can see stains of actinomycetes using the naked eye only because they form pre-assembled strands that resemble cobwebs dispersing throughout the outer to 6 inches (10 to 15 centimeters) of a heap.
Interesting fact: The compost’s pleasant earthy odor is generated by actinomycetes discharging gases throughout the decomposition procedure.
Fungi Affect the procedure
Such as actinomycetes, fungi on your mulch pile break down demanding organic things that previous rounds of decomposers leave, like dried, dried, or high-carbon substances.
Lots of distinct parasite types exist on your heap, such as microscopic species, in addition to vague, fuzzy, whitish colonies. In the event you’ve rotting wood on your heap, you might even find mushrooms sprouting, as mushrooms insure dropped tree trunks decomposing to a forest floor!
Interesting fact: The yeast that is used to consume bread is, in fact, a kind of fungi!
Protozoa play together (the type of)
Such as bacteria, protozoa are microscopic, one-celled organisms that look as secondary and primary customers in your mulch. Protozoan inhabitants are much less critical in quantity — and consequently effectiveness — on your mulch pile compared to formerly described compound decomposers.
New truth: Protozoa are apparent and become an identical color as what they have just eaten.
Profiting from bodily decomposers
A lot of the bodily decomposers, like beetles and millipedes, are big enough to readily spot from over. Others, like mites and springtails, are miniature, but still observable with the naked eye if you scoop up a couple of compost and peer-reviewed closely. Surprisingly perhaps, the most significant population of physical decomposers — even nematodes, or roundworms — are still nearly all microscopic therefore you likely won’t find them. (But in case you get lucky and detect something which looks like a shifting strand of human hair, then you are probably observing a nematode.)
I will head out on a limb and admit if you are reading this novel, you are not a dirt invertebrate like such other bodily decomposers. But should you chop or split organic matter into smaller portions before blending it into your heap, then you can add on to the list of physical decomposers I explain next.
On Your mulch pile, nematodes, also known as roundworms, are allies on your attempt to recycle organic matter and nutrients. They eat decaying plant material and also eat different decomposers, like bacteria and parasites.
Tens of tens of thousands of nematode species exist globally in every kind of surroundings; there are numerous that scientists have not come close to discovering them. Based on species, nematodes are technical eaters, absorbing organic matter, bacteria, fungi, protozoa, as well as their damaging (in the human standpoint ) nematode cousins. (See the previous section”Counting on compound decomposers” to learn more about bacteria and other germs.)
Interesting fact: Nematodes can move through the soil just when a picture of moisture encircles soil particles. During dry conditions or flooding, nematodes go dormant, reviving when soil moisture is available.
Mites belong to this category of creatures called arachnids, identified as a part with four pairs of legs and no antennae. Much like nematodes, the world is covered with plentiful lava species using varying perform agendas. Even though some mites are noteworthy garden bugs (spider mites), several valuable pests help degrade organic thing on your mulch pile. For example, mold spores (also referred to as fermentation mites) feed chiefly on yeasts in debris. Predatory mites in compost consume diverse insects and insect eggs.
Interesting fact the majority of mold spores have transparent bodies.
These fascinating small wingless insects quantify out of 1⁄16 inch (1.6 millimeters) around 1⁄4 inch (6.3 millimeters) in length. They’ve a hinged, tail-like appendage that goes forwards underneath the gut and can be held in place from the stomach with a”latch.” Since the latch is released, the appendage” springs” down and slides the insect to the atmosphere, such as a pogo stick. (It is true. I am not sufficiently inventive to make up that.)
Due to the leaping movement, springtails are occasionally confused for insects, but they have not one of these pests’ problem traits like biting or spreading disorder. Sometimes, some springtail species could chew on roots or leaves of tender tails, although harm is generally insignificant. Established plants aren’t at any risk from springtails.
Take any springtails you detect as more valuable residents of your mulch pile, chewing decomposing plant matter, blossoms, viruses, bacteria, pollen, algae, as well as insect urine. Since air and moisture pass easily through their body surfaces, springtails are exceptionally vulnerable to drying out. Therefore, you are going to probably spy them at the moister environs of the mulch pile.
New truth: Springtails”spring” 3 to 4 inches (7.6 to ten centimeters) at one jump.
Sowbugs and pillbugs
Quite similar in look, those pesky crustaceans breathe with gills, therefore that they need living accommodations that provide moisture and higher humidity. You will probably discover sowbugs or pillbugs (occasionally referred to as woodlice) in moist regions towards the middle or bottom of this mulch heap where they feed on decaying plant matter. Even though they’re not annoying enough to be tagged as insects, sowbugs and pillbugs can feed tender living plant cells, for example, young seedlings growing in moist, organically fertile soil.
Adults develop around 3⁄8-inch (9.5-millimeters) extended and possessed different, round body sections and seven pairs of arms. Sowbugs have”taillike” appendages; pillbugs do not. With no tails to get in the way, pillbugs roster into tight balls should they are feeling threatened, which clarifies another common name appreciated by children: “roly-poly.”
New truth: Sowbugs and pillbugs are linked to crayfish, lobster, and shrimp.
Millipedes and centipedes
At first, millipedes and centipedes seem similar since they have many body sections and segments; however, there are lots of distinctions. Millipedes feed on damp decaying plant matter, helping divide the contents of your mulch pile. But, centipedes feed only on living animals, particularly insects and insect larvae. They kill their prey by copying them injecting venom. Centipedes can employ your compost heap for a hunting ground.
It is generally far better to depart millipedes or centipedes concealed on your mulch pile, but should you decide to pick up them, wear protective gloves and safety glasses. Centipede bites may be painful, though they’re not generally life-threatening unless the sufferer has allergic responses or is a little kid. In these instances, seek advice from your doctor or poison control center immediately. Millipedes can dislodge an irritating fluid, which leaves a foul odor, which causes skin responses, and might be damaging if it gets to your eyes. Some species may start this material a few inches!
Interesting fact: Despite their titles, millipedes do not fit a million thighs, nor do centipedes wander about on 100. A more inclined leg count is significantly less than 100 to get millipedes and approximately 30 to get centipedes.
Beetles are all hard-shelled pests with two sets of wings tucked from their spine. Numerous beetle species function during your compost pile, either throughout their larval life period (if they are called grubs) and as adult beetles. Grubs feed on rotting organic matter. Beetles may have organic matter but also seek out prey like fly larvae (maggots), mites, and nematodes.
Interesting fact: Different beetle species are beneficial mulch dwellers since they consume the gardener’s nemeses — snails and slugs.
Snails and slugs
Snails have protective outside coil cubes; slugs are all soft-bodied. Otherwise, they display similar features, including the unfortunate capacity to decimate your vegetable or vegetable overnight. Should you reside in humid or wet climates with mild winters in which snails and slug inhabitants are widespread, you are bound to encounter them seeking new plant debris on your mulch pile. You might opt to ruin them as if they or their eggs still live in the final compost once you distribute it on your backyard, you have only given them a free pass into the mind of the buffet.
New truth: Snails and slugs emerge during the night, slipping along the floor and other surfaces using a full muscular”foot” that leaves supporting a mucous trail. If you do not observe these silvery slime trails, you have to monitor another offender to blame for almost any plant destruction.
The majority of the physical decomposers on your mulch desire moist conditions to endure, but rodents move into create nests only if circumstances are slightly dry. They will depart if you thoroughly moisten the heap and cook this up to elevated temperatures.
Abundant ant action is an indication your organic thing is dry for quick decomposition, which might or may not issue for you.
Many rodents are valuable at a mulch pile, eating all sorts of stuff, such as parasites, food seeds, and even other insects. They also help create a more abundant compost by distributing essential minerals like potassium and phosphorous from 1 place into another.
New truth: Ants can lift 20 times their weight loss.
Flies are two-winged pests which are rarely problematic using a mulch pile. Adult flies feed on organic material and deposit their eggs compost piles to supply a ready food supply of hatching larvae (maggots). Maggots, consequently, are consumed by fleas and other animals, so it is all part of the food web.
In case maggot inhabitants seem out-of-control (or gross you out), heat your heap — large fever ranges kill fly larvae.
Should you encounter issues with bugs that are airborne, like houseflies or horseflies, buzzing about your compost heap, then eliminate your pitchfork, as your heap needs care. Properly tended compost does not attract flies.
New truth: Flies are thought to transport over 1,941,000 distinct types of germs, some of which are going to wind up on your mulch pile to break down organic matter.
Earthworms will be the most significant homemade machines, swallowing and digesting organic things to deposit their abundant waste, known as casts or castings.
Interesting fact: Even though worms don’t have any eyes, they could feel light.
Developing a Productive Work Environment
Preceding sections within this section give a review of the most significant players on your mulch pile. It’s interesting things to understand, but you do not have to memorize the titles of organisms to assist them operate effectively. Simply produce and keep a hospitable living environment for them. Their demands for life are very similar to mine and yours: water, food, atmosphere, and proper temperature.
Types of Compost Bins
There are many styles and types of composters to choose from. They can vary by shape, material, size and mechanical action. There’s not really a right or wrong answer when choosing a composter — it’s all about what works best for you and your yard. Check out this short guide to various types of composters and see what you like best!
1. Compost Piles
Okay, so it’s pretty obvious that a compost pile isn’t really a bin. But “no bin” is also an option. Master gardeners and master composters often swear that building a big 3-foot-by-3-foot pile is the most effective way to compost. And they might be right. It is also the cheapest option, since all you need to do is pick a spot and start piling.
But there are some serious potential drawbacks to composting in a pile instead of using a bin:
First, it might not be allowed if you live in town. Some cities don’t allow big compost piles, because they can attract rats, raccoons, squirrels and other pests that use the pile as food or shelter. If you’re mostly composting yard waste and no kitchen scraps, then this isn’t as big of an issue. But if you are putting kitchen scraps in your pile, then you are looking for trouble. Master gardeners will tell you to bury the kitchen scraps at the bottom of the pile, under the yard waste, and that is indeed your best hope to keep the pests away.
Second, are you ready to get out there with a pitchfork to turn your giant pile? A big pile is a great way to get your compost nice and hot. But a big pile also needs to get mixed up and aerated, and that means pitchfork time! You could choose not to turn it, but that means 6-12 months before the pile is finished.
Third, do you like your neighbors? They might not like you if you have a large, ugly compost pile going next door, where they can see it. And if you start attracting rats and squirrels, you can bet that they probably won’t be inviting you to the next block party.
If you do go with the pile method, avoid making it too big. Not only is it unmanageable, but some say that piles over 10 square feet have the potential to spontaneously combust!
2. Compost Pits or Trenches
Once again, a pit or a trench isn’t a bin, but it’s another low-cost option.
It’s a simple concept that is usually used with the batch composting method. You dig a pit or a trench in an area where you wish to start a garden, throw in all your materials, and then cover them with dirt. The materials begin to rot and break down underground. That in turn attracts earthworms who help out with the process. In one labor-intensive step, you add a huge amount of rich organic material into your soil, improving it greatly.
Another advantage to using a compost pit or trench is that you can safely compost things that aren’t advisable when composting above ground. You can throw in meat, bones and dog poop, no problem. However, if you plan on planting a food crop in that spot, continue to avoid those things.
The downside is that you have to have all of your materials ready to compost at once. So it’s not a good method for composting your kitchen scraps on a regular basis. But it works well with garden debris at the end of a gardening season, or with leaves in the fall.
If you have a patch of dirt where nothing really grows, digging it out and turning it into a compost trench or pit can really help improve the quality of soil in that area and get things growing.
While the rewards are great, few people actually do this type of composting, because digging trenches is not easy! In this case, a backhoe is man’s best friend.
3. Wire Composters
Wire bins are nice, because they provide really good airflow for the materials inside the composter. Those wire sides let in the sun, the rain, and air, which all help the composting process. However, they also clearly display the contents of the bin itself. So if you have picky neighbors, a wire bin might cause objections. Wire bins can also be susceptible to pests if you add a lot of kitchen scraps, so it might be a better idea to use them for garden debris, grass clippings and leaves instead.
If you’re handy, you may want to save some money and build your own wire bin. I recommend checking out the book Easy Composters You Can Build by Nick Noyes. It has several different wire and wood composter designs to choose from. You can follow his plans exactly, or take those ideas and modify them to build the perfect bin for your situation.
Whether buying or building, go for a thick wire gauge rather than just the cheapest chicken wire you can find. Chicken wire doesn’t last very long, and it doesn’t hold its shape very well.
Wire bins come in both rectangular and round shapes. I really like the Lewis Lifetime Wire Compost Bin (available at cleanairgardening.com), which is made from PVC-coated 12-gauge steel wire — the same material as lobster cages. If it can sit under the ocean for extended periods of time, think about how long it will last in your yard. This bin also has the option of a lid on top, which helps keep animals out.
4. Wood Composters
Wood compost bins are great because you can build them BIG! There are only a few commercial wood composters on the market — most are DIY. Some feel wood bins are more attractive and natural-looking than plastic bins. They blend with the landscape and at the same time hide what’s inside better than wire bins. A drawback is that wood bins tend to deteriorate pretty quickly.
Important note: If you build your own, don’t use railroad ties! They are impregnated with toxic chemicals that can leech into your compost. And stay away from arsenic-treated wood. The lumber industry has moved away from using arsenic in the past few years, but any old pressure-treated lumber you have lying around was probably treated with arsenic. You don’t want to poison your plants instead of strengthen them!
5. Plastic Composters
Plastic bins can come in round and rectangular shapes, or just about any other shape you can think (pig anyone?), because hey, it’s plastic!
Plastic bins are often a good choice because they are sturdy, and they are usually designed to keep the materials in your bin well-insulated and cooking! Plastic composters can come with or without lids. Unlike wood, plastic will last for many years without beginning to rot and wear out.
Look for one with a top that’s easy to open and close, so it’s easy for you to keep adding materials to it. And be sure the top secures firmly, so it doesn’t blow away in the wind. And look for recycled plastic! You’re recycling yard and food waste into compost, so doesn’t it make sense to use recycled plastic to do it?
The cool thing about round compost bins is that they don’t have corners. In a square or rectangular bin, it’s usually the materials in the corners of the bin that take the longest to break down, because they are furthest away from the hot center of the bin. No corners in a round bin! The downside is that you can’t put them flat up against a wall, which means more weed-eating around the back if you have the bin sitting on your lawn.
I use a rectangular-shaped plastic bin that has a removable lid, and a door at the bottom that slides open, so I can remove finished compost without emptying out the entire bin.
6. Compost Tumblers (Tumbling Compost Bins)
Compost tumblers are suspended from a central axis so that they can be rotated. They are great because they make it easier to keep your compost well-mixed and aerated. Instead of using a pitchfork or a compost-aerating tool, you simply tumble the composter to stir up the contents.
Another benefit of tumbling composters is that they keep the compost up off the ground and closed off, away from pests.
And even better, they often work quickly. Some tumbling composter manufacturers claim that you can have finished compost in as little as two weeks!
So what’s not to like about tumbling compost bins? Like with everything else in life, there are a few trade-offs. Compost tumblers are typically more expensive than non-tumbling composters. And they usually have a smaller capacity than compost bins that sit on the ground. So if you have a huge amount of yard waste and leaves to deal with, you’ll probably fill up your tumbler before you run out of materials. To make up for this, some people keep several tumblers going at once, or they combine a tumbler with a regular bin.
I keep a tumbler near my back porch and use it primarily for kitchen scraps.
7. Multi-Stage Composters
A multi-stage compost bin is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a bin that has different compartments that hold the compost in various stages as it breaks down. Typically, the first stage is where you’ll throw in fresh materials like vegetable scraps. They’ll dry out a little bit and rot until they are mostly unrecognizable. At that point, you move the material into the second stage, where it continues to break down. The third stage is where it goes last, and where it turns into completely finished compost that you can take out and use.
If you don’t have a multi-stage compost bin, you can still use this method by using more than one compost bin. It’s the same concept, except that you move the material from one bin to another, instead of just from one section to another. Most experienced composters use two bins. The first bin for the freshest material, and the second bin for the material that has already started breaking down, but still needs to finish up. Empty the second bin when the compost is ready. At that point, you can start filling the second bin with new material and leave the first bin to finish up undisturbed.
8. Indoor Compost Bins
What? You can compost indoors? Yes, you can.
Most indoor composters are designed to compost just kitchen scraps, and not yard waste. (Who has room for 10 bags of leaves in the house, right?)
One type of indoor compost bin is an anaerobic composter, which means no air. Regular compost breaks down with bacteria that like oxygen, but anaerobic bins break down materials with bacteria that don’t like oxygen. You typically add your scraps into a sealed bin that doesn’t let any air inside, and then you add a material like bokashi, which provides the microbes that help the compost break down inside. The downside to using a bokashi bin is that you still need to bury the contents outdoors for a couple of weeks after you finish a batch, in order to complete the process. So it’s not an entirely indoor process.
Another type of indoor composter is an electric one that plugs into the wall and sort of mixes and cooks your materials into finished compost.
Indoor bins are perfect for apartment or condo dwellers, or for people who don’t wish to compost a lot of yard waste like leaves, grass clippings, etc. The anaerobic indoor bins are relatively cheap, but the plug-in automatic units can cost several hundred bucks.
9. Worm Composting, or Vermicomposting Bins
Worm composting is different than regular composting, and I’m not going to go into great detail about it here. If you want a terrific book about vermicomposting, I recommend Worms Eat My Garbage by Mary Appelhof. It is available at many bookstores, and is the ultimate guide to composting with worms.
But here’s the short explanation: Worm composting takes place in specialized worm compost bins. Indeed some earthworms might crawl from the ground and get into your compost pile or compost bin. But worm composting takes place in a special bin that is designed to be a worm habitat. They drain away any liquid so that the worms don’t drown, and they don’t heat up like a regular compost bin. The worms break down the materials and turn it into worm castings (a fancy name for worm poop).
Home and Farm Compost Units
Whether composting is being done in the middle of town or in the middle of a farm, the first requirement is that the composting location, structure and raw material used, meets the legal requirements of local or state laws.
For the persons producing organic compost, they also have to comply with the National and State Norms in the case that the producer is planning on exporting any of his product, he/she will also have to meet the organic requirement of the country of destination.
Aesthetics are also important in some cases. Especially for those homes that do not have the land or structures to hide the unit.
Using your neighbors wall as one of the sides of the unit is definitely a bad idea.
In case of odors, which can happen if the pile becomes anaerobic or if you mistakenly added raw animal products or sub-products, locate the site, downwind from your home.
In areas where prevailing winds and gusting, is brought by warm weather, try to locate the unit behind a building or hedgerow if possible. As winds and warm weather will continually dry the sides and top of your pile, requiring additional turning and application of water to maintain proper pile moisture levels.
The pile should receive a minimum of 6 hours of sunlight daily. The site can be located under partial shade. But some trees and bushes may have root growth that can reach your unit.
Keep away from areas in your lot that have pooling problems, or that are uphill from natural or man-made water sources. If you still have an old fashion hand dug well, keep away.
If during rains you have problems with run-off from small meat, dairy or pork production units, keep away.
For both farmland and city dwellers, insure that the pile will not be located where it can be affected by pesticide drift.
And, finally, Easily accessible to a freshwater source.
The reason that I have even included this subject in the document is because there may be a reader, who has never composted. There are whole documents written about this subject.
There are probably as many composting unit designs as there are composters. What works for you and provides you with the end-product you are working for is what’s important. Composting structures can be made with a variety of materials.
How much compost are you going to make and what will be the investment cost, should be your initial guide..
- The goals you set for yourself should be your other guide:
- Time: Is the period between, pile construction and cured compost.
- Quality: the overall fertility of the compost.
Thus, the structure should be such that it allows ease of filling, ease of management (turning, application of moisture, etc.) and ease of removing the end product.
The most common structure designs for composting are either round or square and in single or multiple units, for high productivity processing, they should have a surface area with a minimum capacity to hold between 3 to 5 cubic feet of raw material.
- 1 Cubic yard = 3 ft. x 3 ft. x 3 ft. and is the minimum optimal volume for fast composing as it effectively retains the heat produced by the bacteria.
- Note that piles over 5 ft. tall are not recommended as excessive volume and weight will compact the raw materials and reduce air movement.
- The sides should also be able to provide a modicum of air infiltration into the pile.
- To control leaching loss, the pile should preferably sit on a plastic, tarp, cement surface. Even open cardboard boxes can act as a floor.
- (If the unit will be used yearly on the same spot, you should consider some type of permanent flooring)
- The capacity to be able to cover the composting unit, in areas where rainfall can cause problems in the pile.
If you have a problem with animal pests, you will have to include a top to prevent animals from destroying your pile, although some pests such as raccoons do an amazingly good job mixing and turning the pile.
Types of Bins or Holding Units
Holding Bin Units
- Depending on the construction material these can be aesthetically pleasing and also costly.
- To reduce cost, you can make the unit with wire fence material, (vinyl coated will last longer) or snow fencing. The one big disadvantage is that in areas with continuous winds or gusting, plus high temperatures, drying or reduction of the moisture level of the pile will be a problem.
- Lumber is another material that can be used, but will be more costly, but much more aesthetically pleasing. A very inexpensive unit can be made by using four wooden or plastic pallets, to form the walls and a fifth if needed, to make a top. Note: Avoid the use of lumber treated with ACQ or Copper Azoles.
- For those growers or nursery owners that compost year after year, cinder blocks may make the most sense. Ensure that you leave spacing for aeration.
- For circular bins, the length of wire needed to build a unit should measure approximately 3 times the diameter you want. Note: For hot composting remember that your minimum pile size is 3 feet X 3 feet X 3 feet or 1 cubic yard.
Multiple or Tandem Holding Units
- Can be constructed with the same materials as the bin unit. Multiple unit advocates, look at the multiple unit as basically a line of production, turning the raw material at specific times from one unit to the next, with the last unit serving as the finishing and curing unit.
- If you have the available raw materials or if your production of compost is high, but not enough to mechanize it, units can be made in any multiple.
- Before constructing other units, you may think of increasing the size of individual units up to 5 feet x 5 feet x 5 feet, although management and control of the pile will definitely need to be increased.
- Turning units can produce compost, quicker than a holding unit but require that they be intensively managed.
- Due to the standard barrel size (55 gallons), not enough raw material can fit in the barrel for hot composting but will work well with cool composting.
- Aeration can be solved by drilling rows of holes in the sides of the barrel. If making your own unit you will also need to make a door for filling and harvesting.
- Turning the material to maintain optimum levels of moisture and mix the feedstock will require some effort.
- There are proponents of rolling the barrel around the yard and those that recommend building or buying a unit that can be turned by cranking it. The choice is yours, as to how much you want to invest money-wise and in physical effort. If you are like many people and your skills do not include carpentry or welding, have one made or buy one already made.
Note: If making your own unit, be very careful as to what the barrel contained initially as many are used to transport hazardous or toxic materials.
Open Air Pile
If your municipal landfill does not accept yard trimmings or municipal or county laws require that yard waste be composted and composting is a chore and not a benefit, the open-air pile is for you.
The open-air pile is just as it’s called. The yard debris raked and placed in a pile, with possibly the addition of kitchen waste (plant material). No further management and controls are done, eventually due to the process of cool composting you will end up with compost.
Before starting to amass mounds of leaves, grass trimmings and other organic yard trash, ask around, there probably is someone that is composting and could use the material.
If you do garden, but are not interested or do not believe in the benefits of compost, make the heaps in the fallow area of your garden or spread and work into the soil.
Initial Construction of the Pile
The term “pile” will be used as a generic name only. The use of an enclosed unit, whether made from snow fencing, chicken wire or pallets, serves two purposes:
A perimeter to contain a minimum of 3 feet x 3 feet x 3 feet to a maximum of 5 feet x 5 feet x 5 feet of raw material. The quantity of available raw material and size of structure will give you the initial dimensions of your pile.
A structure that will safeguard the pile from pets, wild animals, high winds and provide at least a minimum of aesthetics.
The feedstock or raw materials can be either dumped into the container unit at random or placed in layers as recommended by many composters.
Layering is a good way to ensure that the materials are added in the proper proportion. Compost piles develop best when built in layers. Once several layers are formed, however, composting will be most rapid if the layers are mixed before making new layers.
If available materials are limited, building a pile in this way may not be practical.
The pile normally may be started directly on the ground. However, to provide the best aeration to the base and improve drainage, dig a trench across the center of the base and cover it with stiff hardware cloth before you begin the layers.
Branches or brushes may be placed on the bottom as another means of improving lower aeration, but because they will decompose more slowly than finer materials, they may interfere with removal of the finished compost.
Building the Pile in Layers (Method 1)
Firm each layer of organic material as it is added, but do not compact it so much that air cannot move freely through it.
Every two to three layers, use a tool such as a pitchfork or spading fork to mix the layers thoroughly so the materials are evenly distributed. This practice speeds up decomposition.
During construction of the pile, remember the C:N ratios and that the pile needs about one pound of actual nitrogen for each 30 pounds of lightly moist organic matter for best decomposition.
First Layer — Organic Materials
Begin the pile by placing a 6- to 8-inch layer of organic matter in the enclosed area. ]
Second Layer — Fertilizer or Manure
Over the layer of plant material, add a layer of a material high in nitrogen or a sprinkling of a high-nitrogen garden fertilizer.
If animal manure is used, a layer 1 to 2 inches thick should be satisfactory.
If garden fertilizers such as 12-12-12 are used as a nitrogen source, use about 1 cup per 25 square feet of the top surface of each layer.
When using fertilizer materials, about 0.8 ounce of actual nitrogen per bushel of organic matter such as leaves is needed.
One cubic yard (3 feet x 3 feet x 3 feet) of leaves contains about 23 bushels and thus would require about 18 ounces (1.1 pounds) of nitrogen or about 5.5 pounds of a fertilizer containing 20 percent N.
To avoid overwhelming the microorganisms, add fertilizer to the pile in several doses as the pile is turned. More uniform distribution on each layer can be obtained if a water-soluble fertilizer is mixed with water and sprinkled over the surface. Table 2 shows the amount of each material needed to apply 1 pound of actual nitrogen.
Building the Pile in Layers (Method 2)
Layering is one of the recommended methods for constructing a compost pile. Layering is simply adding layers of raw material, inclusively (some persons recommend the use of additional sources of N, finished compost and even soil as part of the layers) and repeating the process till you reach the height desired. Below is one of the many layering recipes that exist.
Start your compost pile on bare ground and remove any existing vegetation, leaving soil bare. Do not place the pile on concrete or asphalt.
Add 6” to 8” layers of organic matter, mixing raw materials to reach an optimal C:N ratio. Do not pack the materials in as this will compact the layer and limit oxygen flow in the pile.
Add a starter material such as animal manures, fertilizer or commercial starters These materials help to heat up the pile by providing available nitrogen to the bacteria and other microbes.
You can use one of the options below as a source of manure, fertilizer and as far as the commercial starter, unfinished compost may be the cheapest option.
1”- 2” inch, layer of fresh manure, in this case let’s say dairy cattle, as the process recommends that the animal is being fed grains,
1 cup of 10-10-10 or 12-12-12 fertilizer for every 25 square feet.
Add a layer of between 1” and 2” inches of top soil or finished garden compost. This is done to introduce microbes in the pile. Do not use soil that has been recently treated with insecticides or sterile potting soil mix.
Keep layering till you reach a minimum of 3’ in height for hot composting.
Ecuador On-Farm Composting
This is one of many composting systems that the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has collected throughout the world.
There exist thousands of variations and recipes for layering, but unless I know exactly what raw materials you have available, what amounts, whether you are going to choose hot composting or cool, whether you are making organic compost vs. conventional or non-organic and whether you are going to use an enclosed unit or open pile, it’s impossible to give you a specific recipe.
Truthfully the only person that can write a recipe for himself is the person making his compost and it may not be the same as your next door neighbors.
Although layering may seem to be a more controlled method of building the pile, in the end, both systems have to be turned to thoroughly mix the high N materials (“green” as many call them) with the high carbon materials (“brown” as they are termed).
Both have to be watered, kept moist, and aerated to reach the adequate temperature levels for successful degradation.
As money, time and effort will be expended in this process, you should consider the following:
To function the pile requires a certain level of moisture or humidity, gravity or leaching can rob the compost of N and other nutrients as water percolates through the pile. If possible, the floor of the composting unit should be covered with plastic or tarp and if the unit is for long term use, a cement floor should be installed.
Although it’s not recommended to cover the pile, if it’s a location in an area that provides shade but a minimum of at least 6 hours of sunlight daily, the process should not have any problems.
Rainfall is another matter. Not only is it no fun to turn a soggy compost pile, but excess moisture will bring the decomposition process to a halt and leach out nutrients. To bring the process back on-line, you will have to turn the pile, while at the same time applying dry (brown) materials to kick it back on.
Correctly Managing Your Compost Pile
Managing Aeration (Oxygen)
The earth’s atmosphere is approximately 21% oxygen. A minimum of 5% oxygen in the pile will keep the microbes alive and maintain an aerobic process going, but what we are shooting for is 10%> oxygen, which is the optimal level for a compost pile.
Lack of oxygen, which can be caused by compaction or pore spaces filled with water will cause the pile to become anaerobic, which means that it will work with little to no no oxygen. This can be caused by rainfall or too much water added, and you’ll notice a rotten smell will be the first indicator.
For hot composting it is recommended that the pile be turned at least once weekly.
Managing Pile Moisture Levels
The ideal pile moisture level should be between 50 and 60 % by weight. Variations in the percentages will occur due to the make-up of the raw materials in the pile.
It’s important to understand the benefits of turning the pile. As the composting process initiates, the heat will cause moisture loss mostly in the center, while ambient temperature and winds will dry out the sides and top of the pile.
Monitor moisture levels using one of the “Squeeze tests”:
Grab a handful of mixed compost and squeeze, the compost should feel like a wrung out sponge.
Grab a handful of mixed compost and squeeze, no more than one or two drops should come out. Soil moisture levels are optimum.
Managing Pile Temperature
It’s important that all the materials in the pile reach peak processing temperature at some time during the composting.
Depending on your management practices, you may see a rise in pile temperature within the first 24 hours. In 3-5 days the pile should be reaching the desired peak processing temperature of between 130° F to 140° F.
Although ranges of between 110° F and 140° F are acceptable to many, the higher range will promote disease causing pathogen and weed seed mortality. Turning the pile, on the other hand, will increase pathogen and seed death as normally the outside of the pile will be cooler than the center.
The best indicator of the progress of aerobic composting is the temperature of the pile throughout the processing cycle .
As materials decompose, the pile heats up and shrinks or settles, eventually becoming no more than half its original size. Losses as high as 70 to 80 percent can occur.
Pile temperatures that exceed 160° F can destroy and reduce the microbe population slowing down the composting process. If pile temperature reaches this level it is necessary to bring it back down to normal processing range.
High temperatures usually occur when the pile contains too much Nitrogen. To cool the pile you can add additional Carbon, or try turning and aerating the pile. Monitor the temperature to ensure that it has decreased to desired levels.
The best way to monitor the temperature is to use a thermometer, you can buy a compost thermometer or you can open the pile and measure center temperature with a meat or turkey thermometer.
On opening the pile you should see some steam coming out of the feedstock and temperature at touch should be moderately hot ,(should be able to keep your hand pressed to the pile center for about 10 seconds). Normal body temperature is 98.6 F, if compost feels cool, then you have a problem, turn the pile and monitor temperature.
Management of soil pH should only be done based on soil test results.
Soil pH regulates the availability of plant nutrients. pH can be lowered by adding organic matter or other soil amendments such as sulfur or sulfates. On the other hand, it can be raised by adding lime or some types of fertilizer or wood ash.
Keep in mind that applying excessive amounts of these products can be difficult to correct.
In most cases initial pile pH is on the acidic side around pH 4 to 5. This is not a cause for worry, by the time the composting process has finished, your pH will be around neutral. pH 7-7.5. The composting process in itself tends to increase end product pH.
It is not recommended to add gypsum or any other pH modification product, to the compost.
If you have acidic or alkaline soils, these should be treated with soil amendment specific to the problem and in the volumes recommended. Remember you can add these pH modifiers, but you can’t take them out. If you believe you have soil pH problems, test the soil.
Is the process or period of time that ensures that decomposition has been finished in the pile and the pile is mature. Recommendations, allowing the pile to rest undisturbed from a few days to a month are a common part of the curing process.
As decomposition is a process that produces heat, if pile temperature remains static or at normal ambient temperature for 3-5 days, while you maintain optimum moisture and oxygen levels, this should indicate that microbial decomposition has come to an end and the compost is safe to use.
Material that has been improperly or incompletely composted may release ammonia or other noxious gases and can continue to heat up, even when it’s applied to the soil, causing unwanted damage to your crop or plants.
Compost temperature equals ambient temperature.
No signs of the initial raw material, excepting maybe some pieces of larger twigs.
Compost color may vary based on initial raw materials, but overall it should be, brown to dark brown in color.
Crumbly texture with an earthy aroma, with no distinct or foul odors.
How to Build a Compost Bin
You have done your homework, researched compost bins and decided that you are going to build your own compost bin.
The question is, what type will you build?
This will depend on the size of the yard, the amount of garden and kitchen waste you have to compost, the effort you want to put into building the bin and what amount you are prepared to pay for materials or maybe you have some materials that you want to use.
A wire mesh compost bin is both easy to make and cheap.
Another positive, is that depending on the size of the yard you can make one small bin or several larger bins in different locations.
Convenience also comes into play here as you can locate and make your bin exactly where it may be needed, for example, near the deciduous tree that drops leaves, near the flower bed or vegetable garden. It is all about experimenting.
You will need some chicken wire or wire mesh or similar and approximately four garden stakes or metal star pickets.
Hammer the stakes into the ground in either a circular or square shape bearing in mind that this shape will be the finished size of the bin.
Wrap the chicken wire around the stakes. It would be useful to have another person help hold the wire while you are wrapping, as the wire can be difficult to handle. Secure the wire to the stakes with some twist ties, metal if you are using star pickets.
You will need some pliers for this and it is always a good idea to wear protective gloves.
If you desire, overlap the wire when you have completed the circle once, to create a door. This way you don’t necessarily have to move the bin to a different location when it is time to turn the compost as you can pull the wire back giving access to the contents, thus creating a door.
If you don’t make a door, when you need to turn the compost, undo the ties, lift the wire over the compost, fork the contents, re situate the bin and return the contents to the bin.
TIP: Don’t make the wire sides too high or it will be unwieldy to lift over the compost.
Think Wood When Building Your Own Compost Bin
Some impressive compost bins have been built from simple wooden pallets or sections of wooden fencing, for example palings.
Use wire to fasten four of these together to create a compost bin that can last for many seasons.
A gate can be made in one side of the bin in order to allow access to the contents and the ability to fork through the mixture with a pitchfork or other gardening tool.
This photo shows three stages of composting using three bins, fresh materials in the first bin, partially decomposed materials in the second and finished compost in the third.
Using recycled timber such as pallets or materials left over from other projects can be used to build something like this and can also save in the construction costs.
Concrete blocks or wooden logs could easily be substituted for this type of construction.
The dimensions of 4ft x 4 ft. are workable but once again will depend on your needs.
How to build a tumbling composter
For this you will need a sturdy plastic barrel preferably without handles.
Drill ½” holes into the sides of the bin for ventilation. Choose a barrel that has an opening at the top wide enough to comfortably place your garden and kitchen waste. Ensure that the lid is able to be tightly secured.
With this type of composter you will need to roll it along the ground to simulate the same action as a purchased rotating composter.
Think of the muscle power you will be developing.
Tip – The container does need to be strong so that it won’t buckle as it is rolled and the ’roundness’ is a factor to consider as the barrel may not roll in a straight line.
FAQS About Compost
Not a lot of decades back, most people with a little yard grew a few of their creations and generally had a mulch pile nearby for enhancing their garden land. Composting was something that we simply knew how to do, and children absorbed the ability by turning the heap or functioning in the backyard as a portion of the actions! But, composting knowledge appears to have dropped by the wayside for most people, in the event the amount of questions I have fielded is some sign. If you are a newbie in regards to composting, the subsequent fast answers to typically asked questions will probably get you up to speed and willing to dig.
What’s Compost? Truly?
Compost is a combination of decayed and decaying organic substances. Though like compost, humus is a natural thing that has attained its final state of decomposition. Compost might be put on top of the ground as compost, but other natural mulches, like bark or wood chips, are not adequately decomposed to be contemplated mulch. You enhance your garden beds with the addition of compost since it helps maintain nutrients and moisture from sandy soil and also improves drainage and aeration in clay dirt. Irrespective of soil type, compost improves soil structure and supplies nourishment to crops. It’s possible to make compost readily from lawn wastes, kitchen scraps, and household waste like cardboard and paper.
Which Are Browns and Greens?
Composters refer to the natural thing that is saturated in carbon as browns and substance that is high in nitrogen. Carbon materials for composting contain tender leaves, sterile plant trimmings, paper, cardboard, paper, along with sawdust. Grass clippings, spent garden crops, vegetable and fruit scraps, coffee grounds, tea bags, and manure are all nitrogen resources. When mixing a batch of mulch, mix around three parts brownish with a single green.
Could I Compost All My Toilet Scraps? How about Pet Waste?
If it has to do with compostable materials and everything can and can not move on your heap or bin, then it is not a free-for-all. Do not place meat, fish, bones, milk, oils, or dirt on your compost bin or pile. They can turn rancid and moldy and might bring in pests, like dogs, rodents, foxes, raccoons, and many others.
Never place kitty, dog pet waste on your mulch. It might contain pathogens that may be transmitted to people.
Can I Need to Obtain a Container into Compost?
Organic matter does not rust into a container. It decomposes as well at a freestanding pile aboveground or within a hole in the floor. But a container is now a far more efficient utilization of distance and makes it a lot easier to generate compost quicker should you keep its contents. You can fashion a bark container out of recycled stuff that costs nothing, or even next-to-nothing, based upon your scavenging abilities. For example, four transport pallets make a compost bin that is pretty darn near the perfect size.
Check with your region’s reliable waste control center for accessibility of complimentary used trash cans jammed as composters. A few of those agencies may also provide fabricated containers at a lower cost to promote composting organic things in the home instead of sending it into a landfill.
Can I Switch Compost Often?
Nope. Some beautiful day, have a rest from your hectic schedule, and proceed to get an entry through the forests. You won’t find legions of Mother Nature’s minions turning off organic thing with pitchforks. Still, the forest floor is covered with beautiful, black humus. The decomposition procedure is continuing all about us whether we engage. Provided that you are in no rush to acquire finished mulch, don’t hesitate to heap it up and allow it to rust on its schedule.
How Long before Organic Matter Becomes Compost?
“It depends” is your fast (although maybe not illuminating) response. Factors impacting the rate of decomposition comprise the mixture of nitrogen and carbon substances, how little the portions are, moisture content, aeration from the heap, and also the temperature of this season. Generally, plan to a mean of 31⁄2 to 6 weeks to reach usable compost. This period assumes you begin with a proper ratio of sliced or shredded green (nitrogen) and brown (carbon) components, which you moisten each of the organic things as you construct a heap at least one cubic yard (1 cubic meter) in dimension. If you flip this heap a few days to aerate and add moisture needed, you are going to harvest some compost in just two weeks! Throw any undecomposed bits back in a pile or to a new heap to break down farther.
Getting mulch in as few as four or three months can also be entirely possible. Start outside as I explain in the previous paragraph, then monitor the heap’s daily temperatures, turning it around four days to coincide with fever drops.
How Can I Know When My Compost Is about to Work With?
Finished compost is dark brown — almost black — in the shade. Its feel is more loose, crumbly, and uniform in size. The majority of the first ingredients are now unrecognizable. (If you can find any more significant chunks of substances that have not completely decomposed, throw them in a fresh pile to divide in another round.)
If you have been keeping a sexy heap, the composted material will not reheat after turning after it is ready to work with. Should you squeeze a handful of compost, then it ought to be damp. The finished compost smells earthy and beautiful. Cannot I Send My Yard and Household Waste into a Landfill into Decompose? Why all the fuss of composting at home? It could surprise you since it did me the very first time that I read it about; however, natural materials do not decompose exceptionally well in a landfill. Heavy equipment cleans and packs the refuse tightly that the majority of the atmosphere is made out. With oxygen, aerobic decomposer organisms can not perform their job. Garbologists, scientists who examine what happens to the planet’s trash, have dug into the depths of landfills to discover perfectly understandable old papers and identifiable (although likely not quite enticing) food things. Besides, there are sustainability problems regarding the hills of garbage humans generate for landfills. Trucks and heavy-equipment burn gas and create air pollution while dispersing and depriving the refuse. Many people have fulfilled their capability, and there is too little room to construct more (nobody needs a landfill in their yard ). And remember that methane gas, a culprit in global warming, is a byproduct of landfills.
Could I Compost in Winter?
Yes, composting can happen throughout the year. As temperatures cool, the more faster-working mesophilic and thermophilic microorganisms will slough off and also the cool-loving, however, slower-acting psychrophiles will require over. It is also possible to insulate your heap with a thick coating of leaves, straw, or sod to allow it to keep warm through winter. A few decompositions will happen; however, things will perk up as temperatures warm.
Could I Use Compost rather than Fertilizer?
Compost is known as a soil change or improver as opposed to a fertilizer. Since your mulch’s nutrient levels vary significantly from batch to batch as a result of the first ingredients and procedure of decomposition, it is not possible to understand what nutrients it includes without even examining. Nevertheless, most compost includes a vast array of nutrients, including trace elements, to encourage wholesome plant development, so adding mulch for the garden most surely enhances soil fertility.
Tips for Success
Smaller is Better
- If you toss in whole fruits, vegetables, egg shells and garden waste your compost is going to take a long time to decompose.
- This is just something to be aware of as it is often quite easy to just give those ‘past their use by date’ veggies and fruit a quick chop to reduce them in size and they will decompose much faster.
Just Add Water
- Since your compost pile is going to be home to a host of fungi, bacteria as well as bugs and worms, it will need water.
- You don’t need to keep it soaked as this will cause your precious compost to rot instead of decompose and your neighbors are likely to complain about the smell.
- All you need to do is keep it moist at all times.
Freeze the Scraps?
- This is an easy way to compost kitchen scraps without using a kitchen compost pail.
- Don’t get me wrong, I am an advocate of compost pails in the kitchen but maybe you want to try your hand at this before investing in a proper compost pail.
Follow these steps
- Wrap kitchen scraps in newspaper
- Put wrapped scraps in the freezer
- When convenient, maybe on the weekend, put scraps in a compost bin or bury in the garden
Notes: Kitchen scraps mean vegetable or fruit scraps, not meat or dairy. When you put the scraps in the compost bin, pile, or bury them, just put in as is, paper and all, the paper will decompose just fine.
Freezing the scraps means no smell, plus the act of freezing actually helps in the breaking down process.
Composting Juicer Pulp
The pulp left over from juicing fruit and vegetables is ideal to go into the compost as part of your normal kitchen composting routine.
You can add it to your kitchen composting bucket and when it is full, add to the compost pile or compost bin.
If you are adding the pulp from the juicer directly to the pile, cover the pulp or push it into the pile so that rodents and other animals are not attracted to the pile.For convenience, you can put the pulp in a bag in the fridge or freezer and add to the compost pile or bin when you have time, such as leaving it until the weekend.
- Moldy bread is absolutely fine to add to the compost.
- Remember, the aim is for the microorganisms to break down the materials in the compost bin, so mold on the bread is just a bit of a head start.
- Don’t just throw in a whole loaf as it will just all glug together. Be sure to separate it or pull apart and add with other organic materials.
Wrap Scraps in Newspaper
- Wrap scraps in newspaper, particularly vegetable scraps when preparing a meal.
- It is then easy to place the paper and all straight into the compost and there is the added benefit of adding some carbon materials (the newspaper) along with the nitrogen rich green materials.
Can you use Coffee Grounds in the Compost?
Coffee grounds are not acidic like the brewed stuff and are pretty neutral as far as ph goes and are ideal to add to the compost. You probably don’t want to trot out to the compost pile every time you have a coffee so just add the grounds to the kitchen compost. The filter is okay to compost also so just put the whole lot into the kitchen compost crock.
By the way, worms like coffee too so add some grounds to the worm composter if you have one.
Coffee grounds are nitrogen rich so just be sure to add some carbon materials such as dry leaves or paper.
What is the difference between Compost, Fertilizer and Mulch?
Fertilizer releases specific nutrients to feed the plant whereas compost feeds the soil.
Mulch is placed on top of the soil primarily to stop evaporation of moisture after watering.
And finally, the advice I gave you at the beginning…if you still aren’t sure about composting.
Here are the instructions again for an easy way to get started
- Buy a bale of hay or straw.
- Add some dried grass clipping and some leaves, green or brown.
- Start adding kitchen scraps on a regular basis and watch it take off. Wrap kitchen scraps in newspaper as you are preparing dinner and the whole lot can go into the compost pile.
- Turn the pile every week to allow oxygen into the pile
Why Composting in Fall is a Good Idea
Is the weather starting to turn chilly at your place, maybe yes and maybe no?
Fall is a great time to get stuck into the compost. A little bit of effort now means that you can put your feet up over winter and wait for the magic to work with your compost.
Composting is actually a really good way to get rid of all those fallen leaves so find the rake that is lurking at the back of the shed and start some raking and pruning.
Remember to layer the pile and to include a good ratio of browns (carbon materials) to greens (nitrogen rich materials).
Sometimes in Fall the browns or carbon rich materials may outweigh the greens so keep an eye on the balance.
Remember that ‘greens’ includes scraps from the kitchen.