You’re interested in composting properly at home and learning how to make your own compost? We show you how to properly fill your composter and how to do it correctly.
Authentic compost is a mixture of a wide range of organic waste products. It’s fantastic and practical, yet there’s a strange road from garbage to useful soil improver. There is still much to learn about the processes that lead to new humus being formed after something has rotted.
Organic waste is left in compost piles to decompose and transform, and humans have long taken advantage of these unique features. In spite of this, a common question among gardeners is, “What can I compost?” And how does it actually work: composting properly?
In this post you can learn about
- 1 Correct Composting Method
- 2 Which Compost is the Best
- 3 Proper Composting Tips for Gardens and Lawns
- 3.1 Moisture in the composter
- 3.2 Temperature in the composter
- 3.3 Oxygen in the composter
- 3.4 Nutrients in the composter
- 3.5 pH value in the composter
- 3.6 Creating Compost – Layering vs. Turning
- 3.7 Filling the Composter
- 3.8 How long does the compost take
- 3.9 When is the compost ready
- 3.10 How to Accelerate Composting
- 3.11 How to – Sifting Compost
Correct Composting Method
Composting is a simple process if you follow the instructions provided in this article. For example, you’ll need tools like knowing what microorganisms go into composting and when it’s ready to utilize. However, to get things started, let’s think broadly.
- When organic materials go through the composting process, they are transformed into compost or humus.
- The main rotting occurs in the decomposition phase, and post-rotting is the accumulation phase.
- Fresh compost, which itself is nutrient-rich yet unstable, is the end product of primary decomposition.
- Finishing the composting process yields a mature compost that is lower in nutrients but considerably more stable.
- Composting in private gardens almost always follows a cold decaying process.
- Pathogens and weed seeds aren’t eliminated by cold rot, so don’t compost anything from sick plants or that contains undesired seeds.
How does Composting Work
Composting is the process of converting organic waste into new humus through the action of billions of microscopic organisms. The first phase is the breakdown, which is a messy process. As bacteria race to get at the nutrients inside, the air becomes warmer. After the “primary rot” (also known as the “intense rot”), the finished product is known as “fresh compost.”
The “post-rotting” phase occurs after the decomposition period, which might take several weeks. To make big macromolecules, chemicals that generated during the decaying process are now joined together in novel ways. It is these humic acids, which are biomolecules, that will give the compost its unique qualities.
No scientist has yet been able to build an all-encompassing model of such an acid due to its very changeable structure. It’s important to note that the new humus molecules are far more stable and less likely to degrade than the rotting process’s original output. The compost has been renamed “finished compost” to reflect its finished state.
Composting has taken at least five months by this point under ideal circumstances. If the composting process is not completed, mature compost is what is produced. Compost that has reached this stage of decaying within two to three years has done everything right when composting, according to many patient gardeners.
Compost’s “stability” refers to the fact that soil microbes can no longer easily break it down. As long as it’s mostly carbon, soil organisms would be happy to use it as food and keep on multiplying if that were to happen. As a general rule, the more nitrogen a compost still has, the more unstable it will be after it has been aged. As a result, the question of what can go in the compost is critical, as rotting material’s carbon-to-nitrogen ratio is also important.
Hot and cold decomposition / rotting
Composting properly can be accomplished in a variety of ways, and compost can be produced using one of two processes: cold rotting or hot rotting. Cold rotting happens all the time in private gardens because compost piles are slowly built up layer by layer, and the rotting processes occur one after the other, layer by layer.
As the decomposition processes take place, heat is generated on top of each layer. However, because this layer is not insulated, this heat is quickly lost to the environment. This means that diseases and weed seeds will be able to survive the decaying process unharmed because the temperatures aren’t too high. As a result, while composting in private gardens, take care not to introduce pathogens or plant seeds into the pile.
It is standard practice in recycling and composting facilities to place a large amount of compost on a hot bed at one time for hot rotting. When the pile is left to decompose and self-isolate, temperatures soar to 50 to 80 °C, making it impossible for diseases or weed seeds to survive.
What Can I Put into the Compost
An easy-to-understand comparison chart is provided below, displaying the most commonly used appropriate wastes alongside their unsuitable counterparts. Shredded waste decomposes more quickly in the compost. As a result, shredding hedge and branch cuttings may be beneficial.
In our post on common composting mistakes, we explain what should and should not go in the compost.
Which Compost is the Best
You must choose a composter first before you can begin composting. This can be accomplished by using some of the models and concepts that we’ve developed. That depends on how much of composted waste there is as well as the available area.
Compost windrows, also known as compost piles, can be built in a protected, semi-shaded spot on healthy garden soil. What we have here is a mound that is gradually getting larger. It should have the following dimensions to guarantee optimum aeration.
- Width : 1.2 m – 2.5 m
- Height : 0.8 m – 1.5 m
- Length : any
A metal, wood, or plastic frame is an option for housing this rental. Naturally, the bottoms of these should be open to allow soil microbes to enter. In addition, there should be enough slits or air holes in the renovation to ensure proper ventilation.
A two-chamber or two-heap method is beneficial in any scenario. If you don’t want to place material on the compost yet because of proper mixing, you can utilize one space for collection or use the second chamber during rotating. In either scenario, don’t forget to cover the pile with something, such as straw or mulch film.
Composting in a pile takes up a little more room than in a composter, but it’s the least expensive option for composting big amounts of the garbage when done as a basic pile. Composting in a windrow is the only way to do it right if you enjoy the look and feel of old farms.
Quick composters are open-bottomed boxes with vents, a loading flap, and a removal flap for finished compost, all in one convenient package. They’re made to help microorganisms thrive by keeping the compost moist and warm. This makes it easier to compost smaller amounts of organic waste.
When using a quick composter, however, careful layering of various materials is required from the beginning because mixing as well as rearranging is difficult or impossible in such a container. Compost should not be compressed in any way to prevent an oxygen shortage.
Rapid composters are often dark in color to help them heat up faster. Choose one with appropriate ventilation and an easy-to-remove flap when making your selection. Rapid composters only need about one square meter of floor area, and this depends on how much waste they are processing. Capacity ranges from 300 to 1600 liters, which are commercially available.
Thermal composters are a variation on the quick composter that only improves on the original in terms of thermal efficiency. This keeps the composter’s temperature as high as feasible. As a result, thermal composters are an improvement over quick composters since even little amounts of material can be decomposed vigorously in them. As a result of the insulation, they are slightly larger and more expensive than quick composters. There are containers with capacities ranging from 180 liters to 900 liters available in this location.
Rolling composters are a new and innovative idea. The big advantage of a plastic rollable container is that it can be moved easily to where the compost is created. If you’re looking for a place to store your compost permanently, a rack normally comes with a rolling composter.
By aerating and mixing the material as it is rolled about within, the necessity for moving and layering is eliminated. The drawback is that the containers’ capacity ranges from 70 to 180 liters. If necessary, a number of rolling composters can be purchased to address this issue.
Small composters for balcony and apartment
Composting or recycling compost can be done on a small or large scale, with or without a garden. We’d like to introduce two methods for doing this with the worm bin and Bokashi bucket. If you have an excess of Bokashi or worms, there’s no reason you can’t give them away. You never know who would be grateful for some organic fertilizer.
In Japan, the latest composting craze involves fermenting rather than composting. It takes two to six weeks to make organic fertilizer for potted plants or flower beds using a Bokashi bucket, but you’ll also obtain an organic liquid fertilizer in that time (depending on conditions). As a result of the material having been “predigested,” breakdown might occur much faster than normal.
Fermentation, as opposed to composting, occurs in the absence of any air and is powered by specially introduced lactic acid bacteria. The same bacteria, incidentally, make wonderful sauerkraut from white cabbage. You may learn more about the function and application of Bokashi buckets in our in-depth article. An average-sized organic garbage can holds about 15 liters of waste, whereas a Bokashi bucket holds about 20 liters.
There are many compost worms and earthworm species that have great skills that can be used in an indoor worm bin. Here’s an example of a worm bin that you can buy on the market. In the meantime, though, the Internet is also full of DIY construction instructions. Worm bins operate on a straightforward principle: You feed organic trash to hundreds of worms, who reside in a well-ventilated container.
Every worm bin has at least two compartments. Worms travel from one region of composted material to another through slits or holes that have been created. They are self-replicating in the box, so you only have to buy them once. People who have used worm boxes say that they first had a weird odor, but with sufficient ventilation, and after some time of use, this vanishes.
In most homes, 15 to 25 °C is the ideal temperature for the worm bins, so they should work well. Some models have expandable storage starting at 70 liters and going up from there. It’s critical to address the topic of what can go in the compost pile in advance because compost worms consume a lot, but not everything.
By the way, as previously noted, a newly constructed compost pile can reach temperatures of 50 to 80 degrees Celsius during the hot decomposing phase. Also known as a “compost heater,” the bio-heater makes use of this phenomenon. A network of water pipes runs through the pile, eliminating heat on a continuous basis. Insulate tanks can be used to store the warm water, which can then be utilized at a later time.
Compost piles can be used to generate electricity, heat, and hot water all at the same time. It does, however, necessitate a heated decay and can only last a few weeks, as previously said. Compost heaters are only cost-effective if you have a substantial amount of compostable waste.
Proper Composting Tips for Gardens and Lawns
Microorganisms are responsible for the pile’s processes. It’s critical to improve their living conditions if you want to hasten the decaying process. There are a few adjustments where you can deal with this:
Moisture in the composter
Rot requires a damp environment for the bacteria and fungi to thrive. This can be accomplished by placing the compost in a partially shaded area, covering it with soil, or using a composter. If it’s hot and dry outside, make sure to moisten your compost pile.
Temperature in the composter
When food is exposed to high temperatures, germs perform better and the rotting process speeds up. Composters that use heat to break down organic matter are known as thermal or fast composters. Compost insulation and covering, as well as a sheltered site that gets some sun from time to time, can all help.
Oxygen in the composter
Microorganisms that require oxygen to breathe include those that are aerobic. Their work is made more difficult or perhaps deadly by a compost pile that is overly dense or too damp. A good supply of breathing air is ensured by the use of sufficiently coarse, structurally stable materials and frequent rotating.
Because anaerobic (not air-breathing) microbes thrive in low-oxygen environments, they quickly take over a situation. Among the byproducts of their operations are noxious sulfur and methane molecules, for example. So, if your compost has a terrible odour, turn it over to aerate it.
Nutrients in the composter
Microorganisms require a nutrient-rich substrate in addition to a carbon-rich one in order to proliferate and be active. As a result, adding some nitrogen fertilizer to the mix can help ensure that the soil is adequately fed with nitrogen. To be honest, it’s not necessary if you have access to plenty of nutrient-rich material, such as compost or manure that has a low carbon to nitrogen ratio.
The best nutritious basis is made up of a colorful medley of many components. The carbon-to-nitrogen (C:N) ratio tells you how much carbon there is in a given amount of nitrogen. Manure, for example, has a C:N ratio of 5:1, which means it decomposes quickly, but little humus is formed as a result.
Large C/N materials disintegrate very slowly (such as wood chips, C:N = 120:1), and microbes even use nitrogen from the surrounding environment to do so. In order to make a difference, it’s critical to know what you can and cannot put in the compost.
pH value in the composter
To some extent, microbial activity rises with increasing pH. At lower pH levels, their activity is inhibited. Adding some lime to the compost will help if it contains a lot of “acidic” materials (such as grass clippings and leaves). For instance, algal lime is an excellent choice.
Creating Compost – Layering vs. Turning
Compost layering used to be taken for granted when it came to composting success. You will, however, discover that this isn’t your only option.
- The purpose of turning is to get oxygen into the decaying material, which helps it go through the conversion process.
- Turning isn’t necessary if your compost is laid out carefully and openly.
- Turn your compost at least once a year if you aren’t meticulous about sifting it.
- If you move your rolling composter on a regular basis, you won’t have to worry about turning or layering.
By adding oxygen and mixing the compost – turning the compost material helps hidden microbes thrive.
The composter can create their compost in ideal layers, or they can stir their compost every now and again. Turning your compost can be avoided if you layer it properly and include enough coarse material to prevent waterlogging, oxygen-deficient zones, or other unfavorable rotting conditions. Because they are difficult to mix, rapid composters and thermal composters both call for this.
However, doing so entails sorting all compostable garbage meticulously beforehand. If you don’t enjoy having to layer your compost every week, you can be more lax about it, but be on the lookout for rot or dry places. This necessitates yearly re-piling, and if you notice rotting or stink, use a fork to quickly sweep the bottom to the top, and the innermost to the outermost.
Wet the dried material and remove the rotting spots while you’re at it. It’s not necessary to mix garbage if you’re using a rolling composter; instead, you need merely move the bin around frequently to keep it rolling smoothly. In addition, dealing with what can go in the compost ahead of time helps prevent rotting from improperly decaying foods like dairy or meat.
Filling the Composter
- The base of the composter should be filled with sawdust, bark mulch, or wood chips.
- Layer on structurally sound material (such as branch cuttings, dried shrub cuttings, and leaves) followed by softer household garbage (such as food scraps and flower pot soiled with cooking oil).
- Between the layers, you can apply a very thin layer of lime or nitrogen fertilizer if necessary.
- If you’re inoculating with another type of compost soil, you can use it on occasion as well.
- Prior to adding it to the compost, moisten any material that is too dry, and dry any material that is too damp.
- In the event, you run an open compost heap, a thick covering of straw, hay, leaves or climbing plants is placed on top at the finish.
How long does the compost take
It will go through several stages if you compost properly: from fresh compost to finished compost to fully mature compost and then back to fresh compost. It takes four to eight weeks for new compost to be suitable for usage, and between five and six months for fully-grown compost.
- The decaying times shown below are simply suggestions that can differ based on the microorganisms involved and their living conditions.
- After four to eight weeks, a new compost is ready for usage.
- After five to six months, the completed compost is friable, smells good, and the original elements are hard to tell apart.
- More composting time increases the likelihood of a finished compost maturing into a very stable, low-nitrogen mature compost that is perfect for soil supplements.
- When the compost smells wonderful, is black and friable, and the original elements are no longer discernible, it is ready.
In fact, adding more time to the composting process has no negative impact on the final result, since the newly formed humic substances become more resistant to breakdown and serve an increasing number of functions as soil improvers over time. Composting proceeds more quickly and produces less stable “permanent humus” when the starting material is nutrient-rich.
When is the compost ready
This is only an estimate – the actual rotting time will vary based on the microorganisms and their operating conditions. If your trash has converted into pleasant, fragrant, friable stuff that mimics forest soil and from which you can’t tell where it came, then you’ve had a successful compost, so put your trust in that!
How to Accelerate Composting
Compost accelerators and starters, as well as compost worms, are all available to help in composting. If you use well-mixed compost on good soil, you won’t need any of these other ingredients. Everything, including microbes and worms, will enter and multiply in your compost on the bottom layer.
Compost accelerators, such as those that contain nitrogen or lime, are only required in very little amounts, as you learned above (in the “Promoting Composting” section). If you’re starting from scratch with your compost, here’s a tip to make things go more smoothly: If you can start your new compost pile with mature compost from an existing composter. This serves as a starting point for further microbial growth.
As a result, every compost is inoculated with the bacteria from the one before it. It’s the last resort to utilize compost worms and compost starters if the conditions are bad (low subsoil, no compost available for inoculation). Our particular compost worms article has all you need to know about worm composting.
Optimizing the living environment of the microorganisms involved in composting is by far the most successful strategy if it is to continue fast.
How to – Sifting Compost
Fresh and mature compost are both subject to screening. Compost is separated into two types using this device. Due to the presence of coarse fragments that will continue to decay in the bed, fresh compost is often screened more roughly than completed compost.
There’s no need to filter mature compost because none of the original organic structures should be present by this point in the decay process. When mixing planting soils, use only finely ground compost. For future use, refer to the following table for recommended mesh sizes.
- Use Mesh size of the sieve
- Mulching of areas 20 – 30 mm
- Soil improvement with ready/mature compost 5 – 20 mm
- Annual maintenance with finished/mature compost 5 – 20 mm
- Component of planting soil < 15 mm
Compost from recycling yards has either been hot rotten or sterilized to remove germinable seeds and bacteria. To prevent diseases and weed seeds from spreading through your garden, sterilizing the compost may be an alternative for you. Sterilizing small volumes of compost in a 200°C oven takes around 20 minutes.
If you wish to utilize your compost indoors or for sensitive plants, this is a must-have. Sterilization kills beneficial soil organisms that have helped you compost properly and continue to do crucial work in the soil. As a result, only sterilize when absolutely essential.