Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Composting 101

When you think of composting several different methods may spring to mind. Rotating barrels, bins with worms or a big pile that some unlucky member of the family gets to turn over every now and then with a shovel or pitch fork.

The problem is when you look up how to's or DIY you will find them all listed under the same heading.
Each one will sing its praises! Each one will tell you that you need to try that composting system and how wonderful it is.

While each one is wonderful, and can be the best thing you've ever tried or added into your gardening - it could also be the worst thing, a hassle or even worse not work at all.

So let me explain (a little, I'm not a expert I just love research). There are three main ways to compost.
Wet, Dry & Worms.
Each will add many amazing benefits to your garden - if done correctly. Also I'd like to add, this is not the whole of composting, composting is as diverse as the people who garden!

The first most important thing you need to do is figure out what is going into your future compost pile.
If you have tons of vegetables, lots of long grass and fruit trees (or trees that shed leaves) you may want to look at a Wet system or a Worm bin.
If you have all of the above but only a few trees or a small area of grass - a wet system would be great!
A dry system for lots of veggies and leaves isn't that great and will likely attract bugs and or smell.
If you have an acre of property, lots of trees, grass ect, worms might be better - they can tear through a pile of leaves and churn it into mulch in record time.

A wet system can be done in a barrel, tumbling system or simply by marinating certain mixes.
Later on in the summer as a boost I'll make a rabbit poo compost tea. Simply take a large bag of rabbit poop, place it in a large container of water - marinate for a day or so then use the water to water your plants.
A tumbling system is great, you keep every part of your compost. Depending on heat temps you can create a very usable product in a months time.
Down side to tumbling systems is if you have lots to add - you can quickly run out of room.
Or have lots of poop - the stench of wet moist poop is really nasty.

Worms are ravenous creatures (if you get the correct ones) they can break down a large amount of food in very little time.
However they need a proper mix of food, moisture and temperature. Too much of one thing, to little of another can kill them.
Worms also require care, just like any living thing you can't set it up and walk away for the winter.
This is great if you throw away lots of table plant scraps.

I use a dry system. I have chickens, rabbits and a coffee addiction. Most of my leftover kitchen scraps end up going to either my chickens or my rabbits. Leaving very little vegetable roughage for the compost bin.
We clean out the chicken coop once a week - each time adding a small pile of chicken droppings and hay.
A few times a week we clean out the rabbit area - only in spring do we direct sow it - all other times of the year it ends up in the compost pile waiting to be used.
Due to the amount of eggs I use weekly half get washed, crushed and returned to the chickens for calcium supplement. The other half end up in the compost heap.
Add to that my left over coffee grounds and you have something that would reek and overflow a wet tumbler system, not to mention kill off any worms.

My system on average takes a full year to break down. In the photo above, you can see we pulled the freshly added bits to the front. Exposing the richer, broken down lovely compost underneath.
That will be tilled into the ground this coming week when we start prepping for the main bulk of our direct sow crops.
(Its hard to tell from the photo but we have roughly a foot deep of rich composting material.)

Its a lazy system, we toss everything onto the pile, turn it over every other month and let nature take its course. Now because the poop is kept mostly dry and its mixed well with lots of coffee grounds our compost pile rarely smells! (this is a great thing)
Once the bottom has been raked/shoveled/scooped out and tilled into the garden the newer spring items will become the base for next year.

Once you've identified what's going into your compost, research the different methods. Check your space and be very brutally honest with yourself. If you like the idea of worms, like the benefits, but aren't great at long term follow through - its not for you.
If you've had problems in the past you may want to look at things again and see if you just choose the wrong composting system for what you have.
Again each system is amazing and will benefit your garden! I do not promote one type over the other rather encourage you to choose the correct system that will work best for your needs.
 Hope this helped!

Here are a few links to great DIY sites for each composting type - along with other tips and tricks specific for that type of composting.


DIY Barrel Tumbler
Compost Tumbler - this one looks fabulous!
Compost Tea


Wood Pallet DIY
Wood Bin DIY
Ultra Set up


Vermicompost - can handle some coffee grounds but only when mixed with a good amount of plant matter.
Introducing kids to worm composting
Highly detailed - Red Worms


No comments:

Post a Comment