Composting has become quite prevalent over the past few years as a result of individuals wanting to reduce their impact on the environment. Composting reduces the amount of waste that each of us send to landfill, in fact 30% of the material we send to landfill is organic and could be composted at home. There are multiple rewarding benefits of composting. Compost makes a great soil conditioner, creating rich humus for lawn and garden, this adds nutrients to your plants and helps the soil retain moisture. The Compost process introduces beneficial organisms which assist in aerating the soil, breaking down organic material for plant sue and warding off plant disease. By composting you will also save money, resources and the amount water you use to water you plants. Evidently composting is a win/win scenario both for you and the environment. The Really Group has a few helpful tips for you to produce your own compost and start saving.
WHAT IS COMPOST?
Compost is organic matter that has been decomposed to a final product that is free of pathogens and plant seeds, which can be recycled as a fertiliser and soil amendment.
HOW DOES COMPOSTING WORK?
At the simplest level, the process of composting simply requires making a heap of wetted organic matter know as green waste and waiting for the materials to break down into humus after a period of weeks or months. Modern composting is a multi-step process, closely monitored with measured inputs of water, air, carbon and nitrogen-rich materials. The decomposition process is aided by shredding the plant matter, adding water and ensuring proper aeration by regular turning of the mixture. Worms and fungi will help break down the material.
INGREDIENTS NEEDED FOR A SUCCESSFUL COMPOST
Composting organisms require five equally important components to work effectively:
Nitrogen (Green ingredients): Supply your pile with nitrogen, which grow and reproduce organisms to oxidize the carbon. These additions are often green and wet: kitchen scraps, fresh lawn clippings, weeds pulled from your garden. Every pile needs the green ingredients, if you use an excessive amount, your compost pile may start to rot.
Carbon (Brown ingredients): Supply your pile with carbon for energy (heat). These items are often brown great additions are, dried leaves, branches, hedge clippings, and straw. Excessive amounts of carbon will leave your compost taking years to decompose. A healthy compost pile should have much more carbon than nitrogen.
A simple rule to use is one-third green and two-thirds brown materials. The bulkiness of the brown materials allows oxygen to penetrate and nourish the organisms that reside there. Too much nitrogen makes for a dense, smelly, slowly decomposing anaerobic mass. Good composting hygiene means covering fresh nitrogen-rich material, which can release odors if exposed to open air, with carbon-rich material, which often exudes a fresh, wonderful smell. If in doubt, add more carbon.
Oxygen: Oxygen is imperative when it comes to oxidising the carbon and facilitating the decomposition process. This is accomplished by regularly turning of the mixture. Hint: If your compost becomes starved of oxygen, then it starts to produce greenhouse gases – so it’s important to get air into your compost heap.
Water: Compost mixture should be moist, but not soaking wet to maintain activity without causing anaerobic conditions.
Soil: The addition of soil will encourage the introduction of composting microorganisms, which facilitate the breakdown of the material.
THREE BOX COMPOSTING SYSTEM
At Really Group, in order to help reduce waste for one of our projects we installed a three box composting system. This system yield’s better composting results in a more efficient manor while eliminating common human errors, consisting of three different boxes that represent three different stages of the composting process.
The first box is the start of the pile, this is where you add your ingredients. The key is to make it as big as possible, the bigger the better for building heat. An effective foundation for your compost is bare earth; this will allow worms and other beneficial organisms to aerate the compost.
Step one: The first step is to lay small twigs or straw at least 15cm deep, this will aid drainage and aerate the pile.
Step two: Add your compost materials in layers, alternating Green and Brown ingredients. (See below image for ingredients that will hinder and aid your compost success)
Step three: Top pile off with a small amount of soil which will make richer compost and help reduce odours.
Step four: After a month to a month and a half of turning your pile on a weekly basis move half of the mixture along to the second compost box. The second pile should continue to cook making sure it gets plenty of air and water.
Step five: One month later move half of the second stage compost to the third box. The compost is in the final stages of decomposing. Let the pile sit, aerating it less as it cools down. If the pile is getting cold do not turn, if it’s hot it is still active and you must keep turning.
While you are moving through the composting stages keep adding new material to the first pile, and repeat the process. You will end up with three different piles making the composting process one that is extremely effective and efficient.
The Practical Handbook of Compost Engineering, By Roger Tim Haug
The Science of Composting, Part 1, By Eliot Epstein
The Rodale Book of Composting: Easy Methods for Every Gardener, edited by Deborah L. Martin, Grace Gershuny