Composting can be done on a variety of scales, from small-scale systems in urban apartments to large-scale systems for industrial farms. There are a variety of techniques and approaches depending on your goals for composting, the size of your compost system, and your unique needs. You should also think about the availability of the required composting equipment. Before you begin composting, it is important to know about the different methods available.
Direct composting for small-scale systems
This method involves copying nature’s decomposing process. Nature doesn’t separate compost and then mix it into the soil, but decomposes and mixes the two in one seamless process. Direct composting is one of the simplest methods to create healthier soil. There are several methods of direct composting that you can use, including surface composting with mulch and layered composting.
Surface composting involves cutting down all plants at the end of the season and leaving them in the vegetable bed. The roots will compost directly into the soil, while the top portions of the plants slowly decompose on the surface. You must ensure that “brown material” such as leaves or straw are present with the compost materials for this method to work properly. You will also want to ensure that the beds are constantly covered with mulch throughout the entire composting process. By the time spring arrives, your soil will have received a boost of nutrient-rich compost.
Layered composting involves using alternating layers of carbon-rich and nitrogen-rich materials in a pile about two feet high. The top of the pile is covered with mulch to cover food scraps. If you do this in the fall, your garden will be ready for planting in the spring. You can also speed up the process by covering the pile with black plastic for a few weeks. By springtime, you can plant your garden directly in the pile. The downside to layered composting is that it requires a large amount of organic matter. You may need to ask people you know for additional organic materials.
Composting techniques for urban residents
Container composting is a popular small-scale technique for urban dwellers. You can build a compost container or purchase one. Compost containers have several advantages, including lids that keep out rain. They deter scavengers and allow people to pile up compost in a small surface area. Many cities have rebate and exchange programs for compost containers, so check out your local government’s services.
If you have a relatively large garden, you will probably want two composting bins. One bin is used for active composting, and the other is used to store maturing compost. If you aren’t going to use it immediately, use a pitchfork to transfer the mature compost into smaller bins or bags to keep water out. Make sure you pass the compost through a screen to remove un-composted chunks as well. Once the mature bin is emptied, use a pitchfork to transfer the contents of the active bin. This step will also aerate the compost, which speeds up the process.
Indoor and balcony composting present unique problems that are difficult, but not impossible, to overcome. Whenever possible, it is easier to use a backyard composting technique. One method for small-scale indoor and balcony composting involves using a bottomless container that is set in a larger bucket. Inside the bottomless bucket, organic materials and mulch are laid to start the composting process. Between the bucket and the container, you should lay soil and plants. The plants are nourished by the nutrients that leak out of the bottomless bucket.
Heaps and windrows for large-scale composting
If small-scale composting is not appropriate for your needs, large-scale options like heaps and windrows are available. A heap involves alternating layers of “green” and “brown” composting material. Heaps are used by large-scale farms to compost greater amounts of organic matter. Each heap is about 1x1x1 meters. The composting process requires heat and piles of this size for ideal heat concentration and to speed up the process. You can also use a heap to start a garden in a large backyard, but you will probably need to ask others for organic matter.
Conversely, windrows are long heaps that might be 2x2x1 meters. You can turn a windrow by hand using a pitchfork. However, compost turners, or machines made specifically to turn windrows, can make this process simpler. One issue with heaps and windrows is keeping out moisture, so you may want to cover them with geotextiles. Some people also form windrows into triangular shapes to help shed rainwater.
Contact the experts at Scarab International today to learn more about how high-quality windrow turners can benefit your large-scale composting system. You can call us at (806) 883-7621 or Contact Us by email to learn more about our compost turners and our services. We offer new, refurbished, and used compost turners, as well as leasing options.