Officially composting is a controlled natural biological process where bacteria, fungi (microbes), and other organisms decompose organic wastes. This is a clever scientific definition of composting but basically it’s allowing organic material to decompose into humus or compost or basically “dirt”.
There are several key steps in making compost and the top seven are below:
1.) Moisture: Water content must remain relatively high especially at the beginning of the decomposition process to jump start the bacteria. During dry periods it is imperative to water the compost pile and even cover it with plastic to retain the moisture. Watering the layers as you add them is also a good practice to keep moisture at a premium.
2.) Size: The smaller the particle size the faster it will decompose because it increases the surface area of the organic matter thus allowing for more bacterial decomposition. Never add anything to the pile over two inches in diameter or link. Chipping and or shredding material before adding it to the pile is a good idea.
3.) Fertilizer: Carbon is the energy source for microbes. Nitrogen is also required for the growth and metabolism of microbes. The idea carbon to nitrogen ratio is 30:1. By adding manure or actual fertilizer such as 10-10-10 or ammonium nitrate you can speed up the decomposition process.
4.) Ingredients: Materials that are great for composting include grass clippings, leaves, manure, straw, paper, wood ash, kitchen waste such as coffee grounds and vegetable scraps, as well as twigs and branches if they are ground or chipped to 1/4 inch diameter pieces.
5.) Layering: The quickest, easiest, and least smelly compost is made by layering in dry ingredients followed by wet ingredients and vice versa. This will keep the moisture from becoming too high which will turn the compost into an anaerobic pile (no oxygen) which will cause a smelly slimy mess. This can be accomplished by using dry leaves, straw, or newspaper between layers of kitchen scraps vegetable scraps.
6.) Structure: A compost bin isn’t something that is absolutely needed to make compost, however it helps. A structure that can contain the pile or keep it actually in a pile will help retain moisture and keep the “food” or organic material in a pile to allow more bacterial and fungal pathogens to digest the material to turn it into compost.
7.) Aeration: The key to making quick compost and making sure it heats up adequately, is to turn it once per week. This will provide a continued food source for the pathogens which will allow it to get hot enough to kill weed seeds and diseases, as well as speed up the process.
If you have any questions about composting you can call me at the office at (859) 336-7741.