Compost Techniques

Welcome to the last of our three part mini blog series on Compost Composition!

From experienced composters to those getting started, we are going to go through a few techniques and ways for you to improve your own compost!

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Composting on your own is a magical experience! 

You get to witness first hand YOUR waste breaking down right in front of your eyes.

excited about compost how does it feel to see your own compost for the first time

Ready to get started?

Below is a gut check to choose which method is right for you based on...

your time needed,

how fast you want compost,

how much $$,

amount of compost available each year

 

what is the easiest and best way to compost at home

Already composting?! 

There area two types of composting to familiarize yourself with:

cold

overview: passive process with minimal labor

how long for compost: minimum of a year

static pile composting with minimal effort

 

hot

overview: managed process with at least weekly turning

how long for compost: around 3 months 

turning a compost pile

 

Types and more... 

Static Heap
cold

your time needed: 5-10 minutes/week 

how fast you want it: 1-2 years

$ spend over time: $5-10

amount available each year: only available 1-2 years

static pile of compost

Variations

Bin

Buried Pile

static compost bin example

How?

Create container

rough dimensions = 3' x 3' x 3'

material options = pallets, chicken wire, dig a hole (minimum 12-18"), order pre-fabricated plastic bin

Add materials

Start by adding 6" of brown material to the bottom
note: if you are using a buried pile - just put in food scraps

Layer on materials from our compost ingredients blog

Add at least another 6" of brown on top
note: for buried pile, finish up with 6" of dirt

As you add in more scraps...continue layering like a lasagna or bury food scraps

How to get compost out

After a year check the bottom of your compost pile.

Compost should be taken from the bottom of the pile.

Texture should be moisture rich, smell earthy and not have visible food scraps.

Aerated Heap
hot

your time needed: 1/2 - 1 hour/week 

how fast you want it: 6 months

$ spend over time: $20-$100

amount available each year: 1/4 size of your input (2x a year)

hot pile

Variations

Tumbler

Single pile

3 unit pile

compost tumbler

How?

Create container

rough dimensions = 3' x 3' x 3'

material options = pallets, order pre-fabricated plastic bin

Add materials

Mix your compost ingredients 3 parts brown to 1 part green

Use pitch fork to turn compost every 2-3 days

Continue adding materials until pile reaches limit in unit (3'x3'x3')
**if you are using a 3 unit system, move the pile into your second unit when it fills**

Continue turning pile until texture starts to resemble dirt, earthy smell and black color.
**if you are using a 3 unit system, rotate the pile to the right one more time when your left unit fills.**

 

How to get compost out

For the 3-unit system, continue moving your pile over to the right and then it should be nearly complete by the time it is in the far right bin.

If you are using a single tumbler or unit, you might want to make an additional pile while your scraps breakdown.

Compost can be taken out of the bins when it resembles dirt based on moisture rich texture, cooler temperature and earthy smell.

Screeners are recommended (think of it like a sifter) if you see larger chunks of food in your bin.

If your bin starts to smell, check out the compost ingredients blog to see if there is something a little off with your inputs. 

We will also release another blog in the future on more ways to troubleshoot!

Vermicomposting (Worms)
cold

your time needed: 30 minutes/week 

how fast you want it: 3-6 months

$ spend over time: $40-100

amount available each year: harvest worm castings multiple times

worm composting

How?

Create container

rough dimensions = 10 - 18 gallon bin

material options = plastic bin, metal wash tub or wooden box
add small vents on sides to allow air to flow through

Add materials

Start by adding a bedding layer that fills at least half of the bin
newspaper (not glossy) or peat soil are best.

Add water (about 1/2 gallon) and handfuls of soil to bedding

Add up to 1000 worms (red wigglers) starting with smaller quantities if desired of at least 50 worms.

Mix in food scraps

Note: 1 lb of worms can process roughly 1/2 lb of food scraps per day. Do no overfeed your worms, they need ample time to digest the material.

Make sure to keep worm bin moist and in a cool environment! 

Worms thrive between 55-75 degrees.

How to get compost out

After 3-6 months compost (worm castings) should be ready.

Open bin to allow sunlight into bin. This will encourage the worms to dig down into the pile.

Skim the worm castings off of the top and separate from the pile. Be mindful that the worms are potentially still inside the separated compost.

Push worms and remaining food scraps to one side of your bin. 

Add a new layer of bedding with food scraps on the other side of your bin. After a few weeks the worms will migrate back to the new side. 
**if you have a smaller bin, use a new bin and repeat the initial process**

 

Full disclosure, I am by no means a vermicomposting expert! I am going to do a feature with one of my friends that is much more experienced in the near future for you to learn more. 

That's a wrap on our composting composition mini-series! 

 

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Composting is an amazing process where we can give our leftovers back to the earth. 

If you have any further questions or feedback please reach out to me at compost@grounddown.org

Our next blog will be "how do I use my compost?"

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Happy Composting!
Megan

 

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