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Composting 201

Composting methods and equipment.

There are number of ways to compost successfully, the following should help you decide what style is best for you. The most common are aerobic, anaerobic and vermicomposting. Aerobic is the most common method and I highly recommend this style so will focus more on this. The difference between aerobic and anaerobic is the former is accomplished with help of air, while anaerobic is accomplished without. Finally vermicomposting is using worms to create compost.

Aerobic: The process of composting in this method can be done in a variety of ways.

The most common you've probably seen are the large rotating barrels with handles at the side where food and yard waste is put in and circulated. As implied by the name this style of composting is accomplished by ensuring that the waste is mixed with the air regularly. Regardless of the style of aeration composting you choose, the 1st key is to ensure that the scraps are well aerated.

Compost Bin

The bacteria that work so hard to turn your waste into beautiful rich compost require the air to breathe. You also need to ensure that your composting material stays damp. This may require you adding water from time to time. Keep it adequately damp, not soaked and keep mixing every 7-10 days.

You can easily compost in this style without buying the barrel composter

, you simply need to create a pile; although this method is generally used by people who have a lot of yard and garden waste and not just kitchen scraps as the pile needs to be fairly large in order to heat up properly. Whether you keep your pile open or surround it in a wooden frame or chicken wire it will work equally well. Instead of turning, you simply pull the pile apart to aerate and ensure it's adequately damp; if not hose it down lightly and then pile it all back together. Just two days ago the right hand bin below was full to the top, but as it decomposes it will decrease in size and need to be aerated. Keep pulling it apart and dampening once a week until you have beautiful rich compost.

Note: Your compost will be a very rich beautful earthy mixture when done. However, depending on what you have put into your bin, some items will take longer to fully compost down.

This is our new bin; very easy to assemble and inexpensive. 90% has been created with wooden pallets. The left portion is for composting manure, the center and right location are for standard composting. We can leave the composting section on the right to complete its process, then we'll start using the center one allowing us to continually have a bin we are building and a bin we are using.

Anaerobic: This style of composting as you may have guessed is accomplished without air. Unlike aerobic composting, anaerobic smells horrible; if you've ever left yard waste in a closed bucket or bag for too long you know what I mean. The method relies on anaerobic bacteria, or bacteria who thrive in the absence of oxygen.

This style of composting is as simple as filling a bucket that has an air-tight lid with your scraps, adding enough water to make it moist and sealing it. Let it sit in the sun and roll it once a week or so to mix contents. Just be sure it's done before you open it. Usually a few months or so depending on what you put in it and the size of the scraps.

Vermicomposting: This is composting with worms. The nice thing about this method is that you can do it indoors. This is especially good for those who may have concerns about racoons or other pests.

1st you need the worms, but not just any worm will do. You need (most commonly) Red Wrigglers. There are special layered bins you can buy for your worms and by replenishing your bins with food scraps, they will happily live and multiply creating an excellent compost medium for your garden. And when I say multiply I mean 'multiply'. Last year my black barrel composter as pictured above got worms in it and I've never seen so many worms. Everytime we used some of the compost to make tea, we had to carefully remove all the tiny little baby worms.

This type of composter also requires you think about air. The worms need the air as well as the aerobic bacteria that is contained there-in. The worms don't eat fresh scraps, they eat partially decomposed materials, so you also have to consider your aerobic properties. If you use something like a plastic bin, cut holes into. And for the same reasons, you'll need to be sure it stays moist. Again, damp not soaked; you shouldn't be able to wring water out of it.

You'll also want to create a bed for your worms, this can be done with shredded newspaper, leaves or straw. Add to the bottom of your bin and don't let it get compacted. Check it regularly and mix up add more as required to ensure that the materials stay fluffy.

Whether you are using a plastic bin or a wooden multi-level structure, your worms will make you excellent compost. The really nice thing about this compost is that no matter what type of scraps you use, they will come out PH neutral. This is a very important factor when using it on specific plants. Some plants like an acidic soil and many don't so if you are using too many orange and lemon scraps in a regular bin your compost will be acidic. This is great for things like blueberries, but not others like cabbage. More on this topic in the next section.

Upcoming in Part 3: What to compost.

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