Household Composting 101
*This information is from The Garden of OZ website. Check them out for more helpful articles on composting
Compost is essentially just organic material, animal or plant, decomposing under your management. At its essence, composting is a simple naturally occurring process. In fact, it’s almost impossible to keep your organic waste from decomposing. However, with just a few extra steps, you can turn rotting household and garden “waste” into recycled nutrients for the benefit of your garden.
Well managed compost can provide your garden with all the essential nutrients it needs for healthy plant growth. It can also release those nutrients over time, giving your plants a steady and consistent nutrient source. Compost also helps your soil structure, adding microbes, improving soil consistency and improving the soil’s ability to hold water and air. Over time it can even change clay or sandy soil into rich, supportive soil for your garden.
It provides all these benefits to your garden while removing the amount of solid waste that would otherwise rot in a landfill or on your property. It can also eliminate the need for chemical fertilizers and increase plant immunity, reducing the need for herbicides and fungicides.
“Hot” vs. “Cold” Composting
As noted earlier, decomposition occurs naturally, and, except for extreme conditions, it’s virtually impossible to stop it. But, decomposition doesn’t necessarily occur efficiently.
When we provide the micro bugs with a good mixture of browns and greens, as well as some water and air, decomposition can be very efficient. This is known as “hot” composting, sometimes call “aerobic” composting, because the microbes that require air have sufficient air to live, eat, and reproduce quickly. The compost pile can attain temperatures as high as 160 degrees Fahrenheit, which will kill some weed seeds, make most of the microbes very active, but will deter worms and some other critters. As the pile cools, the worms will return to assist in the decomposition. Hot composting is fast, and a well maintained compost heap can fully decompose in several weeks. While some ads claim that you can make compost in 14 days, I’ve never experienced that phenomenon in over 25 years of careful composting.
“Cold” composting is slower, primarily because the environment is hospitable to some of the micro bugs, but it’s hardly ideal. This is the form of composting that almost always occurs in the forest, where the mix is often comprised of dry leaves and dead wood. It will decompose over time, but the temperature never gets very high, and the process can take years.
Our goal is to create a composting environment that is “hot“. At least during the late spring, summer, and early fall.