Composting Tools of the Trade
Getting to Know Your Composting Equipment
The equipment you use in your composting will help make or break your pursuits of building your compost. If you are really bent on making the most of your composting goals, a good familiarization of the tools that will help you achieve your goals is very much appropriate. The tools will not necessarily be in the form of objects, because there are also elements of place and space that are in play when it comes to obtaining the optimum performance of your compost.
A Good Composting Site
The site of your composting activity is the primary consideration and one of the best tools you need to master before you do any composting activity. The place must be free from obstruction and well capable of obtaining the right temperature needed for your composting. Aside from this, you also need to be thoroughly familiar with the site which you chose for composting. In addition, you also need to be able to access the site frequently as composting requires a lot of monitoring on a frequent basis.
Your compost bin must serve the functions of the particular type of composting you intend to have. If you are up for the industrial level of composting, you may need more than one compost bin to satisfy your objectives. This compost bin needs to be cleaned every once in a while, and must be of the right size depending on the amount of materials you are to put.
Be sure that you are able to manage the compost bin you choose, and for beginners, it is often recommended to start small and then branch out once you get the hang of it or at least get comfortable with what you are working on.
The most widespread organic material that you will add to your compost will be kitchen scraps. The kitchen scraps are considered green food that you feed to your compost as they contain nitrogen – an essential element to the process.
It is a good idea to have a container with an airtight lid to store the food waste in your kitchen, about a gallon in size if you have space. You do not want to attract insects or pests inside your home nor do you want to be running to your compost bin every time you make a meal or snack. If your kitchen container is airtight you will also cut down on unpleasant odors.
We keep our bin next to the sink to easy depositing while cooking. Here is a list of the most commonly used compost items for your kitchen bin:
- Vegetable peels and seeds
- Fruit peels, cores, and seeds
- Coffee grounds (you can compost the paper filter too)
- Tea bags or loose tea leaves
- Crushed egg shells (do not add left-over eggs cooked or raw)
You may be tempted to add other food scraps into the bin, but don’t. You should not add any animal meat or bones, oily products, or fish remains not only will they be sure to attract unwanted pests but they will make your compost smell badly.
If your food scraps are very wet or moist, be sure to put brown food on top of the scraps and mix some in with the waste too when adding to your primary compost bin or heap. This will enable better air circulation.
Composting requires you to maintain a specific temperature. So a thermometer may come in handy for you as you do your daily rounds of inspection on your compost pit. You need to make sure that the thermometer is properly calibrated. Some shops also sell thermometer that is tailored to suit the needs of compost owners, so you can also check these out. The specifically tailored thermometers may prove to give a better advantage for you.
Turning compost can be an impossible, sweat-drenching, back-wrenching chore, or it can be relatively quick and easy. The garden fork has a great variety of uses. You can use a hay fork, something most people call a “pitchfork” and larger than a garden fork. The best type for this task has a very long, delicate handle and four, foot long, sharp, thin tines. Forks with more than four times grab too much material. If the heap has not rotted very thoroughly and still contains a lot of long, stringy material, a five or six tine fork will grab too much and may require too much strength. Spading forks with four wide-flat blades don’t work well for turning heaps.
In the aspect of composting, it will really help you mix your materials especially if you are dealing with a large composting pit or bin. The garden fork will help you rake in the materials, mix them and test the texture and softness of your compost mix. For a garden rake, you must choose one that is optimum for the size of your composting operations and with a complete manual and warranty so as to maximize its usage.
Depending on how large your compost operation is, you’ll probably need a shovel or two to move material around. Most gardeners know the difference between a spade and a shovel. They would not try to pick up and toss material with a spade designed only to work straight down and loosen soil. However, did you know that there are design differences in the shape of blade and angle of handle in shovels? The normal “combination” shovel is made for builders to move piles of sand or small gravel. However, use a combination shovel to scrape up loose, fine compost that a fork won’t hold and you’ll quickly have a sore back from bending over so far. Worse, the combination shovel has a decidedly curved blade that won’t scrape up very much with each stroke.
A better choice is a flat-bladed, square-front shovel designed to lift loose, fine-textured materials from hard surfaces. However, even well-sharpened, these tend to stick when they bump into any obstacle. Best is an “irrigator’s shovel.” This is a lightweight tool looking like an ordinary combination shovel but with a flatter, blunter rounded blade attached to the handle at a much sharper angle, allowing the user to stand straighter when working. Sharp irrigator’s shovels are perfect for scooping up loosened soil and tossing it to one side, for making trenches or furrows in tilled earth and for scraping up the last bits of a compost heap being turned over.
Once turned, my long-weathered pile heats up rapidly. It is not as hot as piles can cook, but it does steam on chilly mornings for a few weeks. By mid-June things have cooled. The rains have also ceased and the heap is getting dry. It has also sagged considerably. Once more I turn the pile, watering it down with a fine mist as I do so. This turning is much easier as the woody brassica stalks are nearly gone. The chunks that remain as visible entities are again put into the new pile’s center; most of the bigger and less-decomposed stuff comes from the outside of the old heap. Much of the material has become brown to black in color and its origins are not recognizable. The heap is now reduced to four feet high, five feet wide, and about six feet long. Again I cover it with a thin layer of soil and this time put a somewhat brittle, recycled sheet of clear plastic over it to hold in the moisture and increase the temperature. Again the pile briefly heats and then mellows through the summer.
You will not only need a compost bin, but if you are a sucker for combining and categorizing your materials, you may also need additional containers that can help you manage your compost materials. In cases where you need to monitor your Carbon and Nitrogen ratio components in the mix, you have make sure that you are adding the right type of materials to maintain the right temperature, mix and ratio needed.
Room for Growth
The spatial aspect of composting involves having more room for growth should you decide to pursue higher levels of composting. Your area must be spacious enough to accommodate your present composting needs, but at the same time, it must be able to hold in expansions, should you decide to increase the capacity of your compost pit.
Other articles in our composting series: