Composting Methods and Ensuring Success
Ensuring Success in Your Composting Venture: Creating Your Own Ecosystem
Compost making is a simple process. Done properly it becomes a natural part of your gardening or yard maintenance activities, just like mowing the lawn or trimming hedges. Making compost does not have to take any more effort than bagging up yard waste.
To me, composting is a natural extension of gardening and dealing with organic waste. I like the idea that I’m creating my own ecosystem. By making compost, you are also being one with nature. You are doing your part in preserving your garden’s health and beauty by gathering the waste elements that can be recycled back into nature.
In this part of our article series, we’re ready to talk about composting methods and tips. Here’s a summary of the items we will discuss:
- Decide if you are going to do it hot or cold. If you’ve decided on cold, you just have to pile all the organic materials and let nature takes its course over them. But this will take months to even years for all the materials to be good enough for compost. I’ll explain the details.
- Keeping odors to a minimum. You don’t want to get into trouble with your neighbors for the sake of nature. To achieve this, you must keep the pile oxygenated. You can turn the materials periodically to gain such effect. This way, the materials on your pile will decompose regularly.
- Dealing with unwanted visitors. You must be vigilant in a sense that if you are seeing flies and other pests inhabiting on your pile, take the proper actions to get rid of them. You want the pile to rot but not in a way that it won’t be useful in the end.
Hot or Cold?
There are basically two ways in creating compost: hot or cold. The cold type is the easier route. You just have to leave the pile to rot. That’s the basic idea. You gather useful materials for your compost. This includes matters like leaves, grass trimmings, vegetable peelings, fruit scraps and all the waste that can be seen in the garden. But this will take a long time because you are not really helping the materials on the pile to disintegrate much faster.
Hot (or “active”) composting uses microbes to breakdown material. If you will choose hot, it is a more detailed process and slightly more effort is required.
First, you should deposit your materials in a compost bag or bin. Leaves are placed first, then soil, then you can add the kitchen wastes such as peelings of vegetables and fruits, eggshells, coffee grounds and other food scraps.
You must keep the pile that is holding up your compost moist. But keep it at a moist level. Your pile must not be totally wet. To do this, you must add up just bits of water to the pile periodically or when you deem that it is necessary. Others will suggest using beers instead of plain water. Beers contain yeast that will then make the bacteria on the pile contented with glee.
Your compost pile should always be maintained. Aside from keeping it moist, you must add leaves, trimmings and soil to maintain a balance. You can also add some manure to help advance the decomposition process. Aside from these, you should also take time to turn the pile every once in a while. This way, air circulation will improve and this will also make the process faster.
When will you know that the end result is ready to be utilized? If it already smells like earth and it already looks like dark soil, then it is time to get it out of the bin and utilize it on your gardens.
Some gardeners believe that the products of compost alone will not make your garden soil completely healthy. You must aid that with other materials and use the compost just like how you will use a conditioner on your hair. It can be treated as an amenity but not the complete package.
Some experts recommend you inoculate the compost with live organisms purchased from a gardening supply store in order to get the process started. While others will recommend adding in healthy top soil as it also contains live organisms that will convert your organic matter into compost material. Either way, once the process is started your compost pile will generate heat. You should tend or check on your pile every second day to ensure good air circulation is maintained and that the right level of moisture is kept.
If you do not have the desire or time to maintain a regular compost bin, starting a cold compost (or slow compost) may suit you better. In a cold compost, you are only using your yard waste and grass clippings instead of a combination of outdoor material with your kitchen scraps. All that is required of you is to pile your leaves and grass clippings into a pile and wait. The process is slow and long – it will not yield usable compost for up to one year. Be careful not to put in any weeds or other undesirable plants, as there is no heat they will survive the composting process and can grow again when you use the finished material.
Keep Your Compost Aerated
The types of microbes you want to inhabit your compost are aerobic, meaning they need oxygen to thrive and live.
When compost loses air it can become smelly and can actually be more harmful to soil than helpful. Make sure that even when your compost heap is in a closed bin, there is still more than enough air for it to continue circulating. The aeration process helps enhance the composting process, and then it also prevents the organic materials from turning into an amorphous poisonous blob that you would not want to work with.
If your compost bin has a bad smell. The most likely cause is not enough air is getting through to all parts of the compost. Give the compost a good turning and add dry, bulky materials such as woodchips or sawdust. These materials are not easily compressed and create pockets within your compost where the air can move freely.
You can also make sure your compost has enough air by occasionally aerating with a rake. Simply turn over clumps of compost in the heap with the rake.
Managing your compost will ensure that there are no weeds or unwelcome creatures inhabiting in your compost pile. Make sure that your compost pile remains a compost pile and not a breeding ground for harmful animals that can endanger you in your backyard. The active compost is quite dynamic in nature and changes day-by-day, so there is come care involved to avoid attracting unwanted visitors.
Inspect your active compost frequently
Keep a balance of yard waste and other material that is not food for animals. Do not throw in excess meats; save those for your neighbor’s dog or cat if you don’t have your own. Keep your compost aerated to keep odors to a minimum. If you follow these tips pests and visits by animals will not be a problem.
This may seem like much to think about if you are a new gardener. But once you accept you are participating in an ecological process of nature it won’t seem like work at all. Not only are you giving back to nature, you’re reaping great rewards with beautiful plants, fruits and vegetables!
If you missed out on earlier articles in our composting series, here’s the list: