The Basics Of Composting On Any Scale

Friday, June 28th, 2019
composting and compost turner tips

Composting has become a popular way to reduce waste and fertilize everything from small home gardens to large-scale farms and wineries. Even municipalities are seeing benefits from composting. There are many similarities and differences between all sizes of composting operations.

Small-scale and medium-scale composting

This is typically done in homes or gardens and there are many methods that can be used. The space and materials available will vary with each, but if done correctly, they should always make a healthy product.

Direct composting

This is one of the easiest ways to compost because it allows nature to control the process. You should keep a separate container of compost for seedlings or transplants though.

  • If you are surface composting, you can use the plants already in your garden. Simply cut the plants down and wait for the roots and the top of the plant to decompose. Then, you can add mulch over the plant residue. By the next growing season, you should have healthy soil.
  • New garden beds can be created with layer composting, a method that uses a base of newspapers or cardboard, nitrogen-rich and carbon-rich materials, and mulch. You can speed up the process by covering the piles with black plastic. This method will require a large amount of material but is low-maintenance.

Container composting

Using containers to compost is popular for people living in the city, as well as on farms. There are many benefits to using this method, including using less space, keeping rain and pests out, and staying organized. Containers allow small and medium-scale composters more versatility. Here is some of the most important information you will need if you choose container composting.

  • You can build a compost container in any size and shape, but should only use materials that are free of chemicals. You can use old trash bins, reclaimed construction materials, concrete blocks, straw bales, and more.
  • Make sure the containers you use are covered properly, but that air can pass through to the compost, especially at the sides.
  • If possible, make sure the compost has direct contact with the earth. The organisms already present in the soil can help enhance the decomposition process.
  • If you have a larger operation, section out containers for active materials and dormant compost.
  • Make sure to aerate your compost by turning it, or by using sticks to create holes in the sides of the piles. This should be done regularly.
  • If you live in a community where there is no room for composting, consider gathering together with neighbors to create shared bins.

Large-scale composting

For larger operations, the methods and materials used will be different than those above. This is because the goal is to create a product in bulk for use as fertilizer for crops, the retail market, and more. One of the first choices you will have to make when you begin composting on a large scale is how you will complete the process. You can use a container, big piles, or windrows.

The way you make compost windrows is important for producing high-quality fertilizer. First, you should determine the height and width of each windrow. Typically, a pile between 4 to 8 feet high and 9 to 20 feet wide is a good starting point. Smaller or larger is fine, depending upon the size of your operation.

The materials you use to make your compost windrows also matter. Here are some tips to help you decide your best options for mixing compost.

  • If you have “harder” materials like cardboard, newspaper, corn stalks, and yard waste, you may have to grind them.
  • Once everything is small enough to be placed in a windrow, you can use a tractor driven spreader to make the piles.
  • Be sure to know and monitor the carbon and nitrogen levels in your mixture. This will determine if the compost succeeds or fails.
  • Turn your windrows regularly.
  • Do not use cooked food, meat or bones, sick plants, produce stickers, pet waste, treated wood, or aggressive weeds.

Turning your compost windrows

This step is required in order for your compost to form correctly. For small windrows, hand turning will work fine, but larger piles need to be turned by machines. This process will help the organisms inside the compost stay healthy and help break down the materials. Turning provides them with the nutrients and oxygen they need to do this.

For large-scale operations, the best choice is to use a compost turner. These machines are built to last and come in a variety of styles including auger types, elevated faces, and straddle types. The straddle-type is the most common model of compost windrow turner you can find. This equipment is belt driven or driven by hydraulics and has many features depending upon your needs.

Why choose Scarab compost turners?

You have many choices when it comes to composting equipment. It is important to pick the right machine for your operation. At Scarab International, we understand that each operation is unique, so we offer a large variety of compost turners. Whether you have a small farm or handle municipal composting for a large city, we have something to get the job done.

Our compost windrow turners are made with high-quality materials in the U.S.A. We have a network of local distributors to make sure your equipment stays in good shape. If you don’t see any current new, used, or refurbished turners available that meet your needs, we can build a custom machine for you. Our compost turners come with many features like four-wheel drive, intuitive controls, and different drum styles.

If you are looking for a new compost turner, or want more information about our Products, give us a call at (806) 883-7621 or Contact Us by email.