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Composting Basics

Composting is a process that has been around for centuries and is used to supply essential nutrients for plant growth and increase soil’s physical properties and organic matter. But what exactly is compost or the process of composting? It is a microbial process that takes organic materials like leaves, grass clippings, coffee grounds, wood chips, dry leaves, animal manure and vegetable waste and converts it to mulch or organic soil amendments. If you’re like me, you just assume that when composting you put all these ingredients together in a bucket, shut the lid and wait until it gets weird and smelly…. I learned that is not the case. There are many types of composting and it takes patience and a little experimentation. Things to consider include; feedstock and nutrient balance (green and brown organic material ratios), particle size, moisture content, oxygen flow and temperature. Now that we understand that, let’s take a look at the different types of composting.

  1. Open Air Composting/ Hot Composting: Most often type of composting that is done in someone’s backyard and requires all of the composting elements. It is usually a pile of green and brown matter in a couple bins or wire cages.

  2. Direct Composting: Oldest and most effective method and consists of digging a hole or trench in the ground and burying the composting material. This method does take longer but it often produces an abundance of worms that will help improve your soil as well.

  3. Tumbler Composting: Using a tumbler you can buy from a local hardware store to compost large amounts of green and brown compost. This method can be a little bit of a work out if you do not get a mechanized tumbler.

  4. Worm Farm Composting: very common and preferred choice as it deters rats and the castings produced by the worms are concentrated with nutrients but have lower nitrogen levels when compared to other methods. The easiest way to worm farm is by using a plastic container with a tap to drain the juice produced by worms or worm farming in the ground. This is because the juice tends to eat through foam containers and certain metals can be bad for the worms.

  5. Effective Microorganism (EMO) Composting: an effective indoor method that can be bought online and in some cases uses a carbon filter lid to filter odors. It is suggested that you use two systems so as one is being filled the other can be sitting and composting.

  6. Combination Composting/ Compot Composting: this method combines open-air composting, direct composting, vermicomposting and EMO composting and you can compost ALL kitchen waste. It is faster and requires less work and only needs to be cleaned out once a year.

  7. Commercial Composting: uses materials including sand plus, sawdust, pine bark, ferrous sulphate and sulphate of ammonia and needs to be turned every three to four days. But be careful if purchasing commercial compost because if the product is inexpensive, it is probably not the highest quality.

  8. Mechanical Composting: used for large amounts of waste and utilizes electricity to create heat and for rotation. Often when this method is used it creates a semi-compost so the product needs to be moved to a garden bed or other composting system to complete the process.

All the methods listed above can be used in a home or at a company to help create less waste and help add nutrients to soil. Some methods are easy, some are expensive and some are more labor intensive. It is all about researching, experimenting and practicing to find a method that works for you if you are looking to compost.

-Christina G.


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