Introduction to Composting

Composting is nature’s process of recycling decomposed organic materials into a rich soil amendment known as compost. Although composting in various forms has been around for thousands of years, there has been a resurgence of interest in recent years. Environmentalists and organic gardeners have embraced the practice for its ability to reduce environmental impact while boosting crop yields.

Anything that was once living will decompose, including yard debris, kitchen scraps, and
animal waste. Backyard composting techniques separate these from the waste stream, placing them in an environment that accelerates natural decomposition, returning nutrients back into the soil in order for the cycle of life to continue.

compost_graphic

Because it improves soil fertility and moisture management, compost energizes the soil food web, which is made up of microscopic bacteria and fungi, along with earthworms, crickets, and many other life forms. Many fungi form symbiotic, or mutually rewarding, partnerships with plant roots, making it possible for vegetables to more efficiently absorb nutrients.

Although a composting system can be as simple as a designated location for the collection of various waste materials, many prefer a multi-bin collection system, as they allow for continuous processing of large amounts of waste while accelerating the decomposition process. Compost goes through stages of decay and maturity, and this process is facilitated by regularly turning the compost to provide the microbes with plenty of oxygen and moisture. Having separate bins also allows you to continually begin processing new waste without adding it to compost that is almost finishing curing.

A common configuration is the 3-Bin method (see video below), which allows for materials to be moved from one compartment to another as the decaying materials are turned, mixed and stored. Fresh compostables are placed in the first bin for about a month, during which time they are turned and mixed weekly. After about a month, half of the first bin can be transferred to the second bin, with the weekly turning and mixing continuing. Finally, the material is moved to the third bin for final decomposition and curing. At this point, the compostables are only turned occasionally to confirm the materials are indeed broken down and that the pile is beginning to cool.

Finished compost is dark brown, crumbly and smells like a forest floor. It can be used to amend most any soil type, including sandy and clay soils, and provides a balanced, slow release source of nutrients that ensures optimum absorption by the plants. But composting offers benefits beyond healthier soil and more nutritious plants. Composting also saves you money, by minimizing or eliminating the need for costly soil conditioners or bagged manure. Further, yard and lawn wastes make up 30% of the waste stream. For the average household this equals approximately 500 lbs of waste that composting can convert into the rich soil additive many gardeners refer to as “Black Gold.”

Please enjoy the below video on the 3-Bin Composting system. We hope you find this information to be useful–please share with your friends!