THE ART OF
Every living thing on earth
will sooner or later die, no plant or animal lives for ever, when
it dies it will rot whether we want it to or not.
When we compost, we are
assisting nature in the rotting process. And our helping requires
more art than science.
When mixing nitrogen and
carbon materials, with air and water, we should strive for a blend
that the de-composing microbes will happily work in.
Composting must be economical.
If we use more energy to make a given measure of compost than the
finished product contains, we lose and nature gains nothing.
The microbes use carbon
as an energy source and protein (nitrogen) to build their bodies.
The microbes also need many of the other minerals of the earth to
build their bodies but the decaying materials will supply them.
Even though organic materials
contain both carbon and nitrogen, some materials like sawdust, dried
leaves, bark, wood chips and dry grass are high carbon material. And
if left in a pile and moistened, nothing happens, it doesn't stink,
draw flies or seem to ever rot.
High protein/nitrogen materials
are manure, kitchen waste, green vegetable matter and animal matter
such as blood and meat scrapes, this material quickly rots, stinks
and draws flies when wet. These materials should be ground small and
mixed well with the carbon materials when composting.
It is always better to
start the compost pile with the carbon materials and add the nitrogen
materials a little at a time until the microbes are really working
and creating heat without a stink. Then you will know you have the
correct carbon to nitrogen (C\N) ratio and can continue building the
compost pile successfully.
Like other plants and animals,
the microbes need air and water, but they don't want to be drowned.
Just keep the pile moist, about like a squeezed out sponge.
For air, construct the
pile with different sizes of the carbon materials, from dust up to
three-inch particles. Odd sizes help keep the pile fluffy and it will
breath by heat convection, gas diffusion and atmospheric pressure
Compost can be made in
static piles or windrows. Static piles are best in dry environments
(less surface area is exposed to drying) and when light fluffy materials
are being composted.
Turning the pile is for
further mixing the materials, blending the microbes and fluffing the
pile so it can breathe. Turning also makes sure the outside layer
spends time on the Inside of the pile.
If compost is to be used
in the garden or on the farm lands it should be used as soon as all
putrid smells are gone but still in a heating stage. The decomposing
activity is best completed in the soil so the ammonia nitrogen can
be absorbed by the clay and humus in the soil and then used by growing
crops especially cover crops. Any ammonia free in the soil will be
used by microbes and turned into nitrites and then nitrates a more
preferred form of nitrogen for plants.
The carbon dioxide released
by the decomposing microbes will be captured by the leaf surface of
growing plants which use the carbon and release oxygen to be used
by soil life, their roots and higher forms of life such as the animals
Keeping a compost pile
too long and turning too often may waste the ammonia to the atmosphere
and the carbon dioxide to the air In a location where and when plants
aren't growing causing a big Waste to nature and the compost maker.
It is easy to tell when
compost is aged enough to be worked into the soil. With one hand dig
into the pile as far as possible and pull some out and smell, if it
is still rank it is not ready, if you only smell ammonia it may be
ready, to tell for sure walk a distance from the pile and wash your
hand with water then smell both hands, if the hand from the pile smells
it is not ready, but if no smell lingers the compost can be used,
because by now weed seeds and pathogens will be dead and the soil
will gain from the continued composting activity.
You don't need to be a
scientist to make compost. Mother nature has been decaying things
into the soil to nourish new life since the very beginning. She uses
little effort and has no loss of nutrients and energy. And, she is
a willing teacher, only if we observe her ways.
I have consulted with many
cities, garbage companies, dairies, feedlots and industries and their
reason for composting is always to save landfill space or to get rid
of a waste product.
With nature there is no
waste. Materials only become a waste when man wastes them.
Few people really understand
why nature decays all dead things, how they should be used and they
Every living thing will
sooner or later die, no creature lives forever.
When it dies, it will
rot whether you want it to or not.
Composting is the art
of working with this rotting process in an economical way.