Written by: James Steele

Compost, we will all use it in the garden at one point or another (commonly referred to as black gold). What is compost? Simply put, compost is the broken down organic matter of plants that we in turn use to add nutrients back to our growing spaces.

There are three main composting methods; Cold, Hot and Vermicompost. Cold composting is simply a collection of yard waste and kitchen scraps piled into an outdoor bin and allowed to slowly breakdown over a year or more into usable organic material for the garden.

Hot composting is a more involved process with a more active role for you the gardener to play, but will give you something usable in about 3 months in warm weather. Hot compost requires four main components; Nitrogen, carbon, air and water. Nitrogen or easily put all the green stuff in the garden this can range from grass clippings to pulled and dead weeds. Carbon or more readily referred to as browns is any plant material that is brown and dry; your autumn leaves being one example. Air simply means allowing air into the pile. This can be as simple as taking a garden fork and punching holes in the pile or a more involved process of turning the pile. Lastly, moisture is needed, like air it aids in decomposition. Too little moisture (water) will slow the whole process down, too much and you’ll get a sloppy mess.

The hot compost method at minimum is best done as a three bay system (Left Image). The first bay is filled with your garden and kitchen scraps; the smaller the individual pieces are the better as they will break down much more quickly. When full it is turned into the second bay to continue the composting process. Bay one is filled again with organic material; when it is again time to turn the first bay as before the second bay is turned into the third. At this point the third bay should have usable or close to usable compost ready for the garden. And the process is repeated.

Figure One

Last composting method is vermicompost; using worms to aid in the composting process. Now one just can’t use any old worms from the garden; the main species that are used are called redworms commonly called ‘red wigglers’. Simply put, worms eat the kitchen scraps (vegetables) and in turn produce worm casting (worm poop); these castings are rich in nitrogen. This method is perfect for those living in apartments and condos as it doesn’t take up much space. Your Red Wigglers are a little picky when it comes to their preferred meals; pet waste, meats, dairy and extremely hot and heavily spiced foods will turn them off their dinner.




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