Different forms of composting: discover them all
At the domestic level, the action of recycling organic waste to obtain compost means a very important saving in public resources destined to the treatment of waste in the landfills and recycling plants of our towns and cities, since we reduce considerably the garbage that we generate.
We all generate organic waste, so we can all make compost, well, all of us who have horticultural concerns and who want to take the little trouble to organize a recycling system where we recover waste valid for composting. Next, we will talk a little about the composting process, the materials that we can use to make compost and the different methods that there are to obtain it.
What is compost?
The plants through the roots absorb nutrients, but these nutrients must be in an adequate way to be absorbed by the plant. Through composting what we do is decompose and transform the organic matter into natural and ecological fertilizers that will be absorbable by the roots of the plants. This decomposition is carried out through the microbial and not so microbial fauna of the soil and the environment. It ranges from fungi to ants and beetles, through the whole spectrum of shapes and sizes of life.
What materials or waste can I use to make compost?
The variety of materials for composting is really very wide and should be combined correctly to get a good result. We will always combine them trying to maintain an adequate ratio between Nitrogen and Carbon. It is estimated that compost should be obtained with a ratio of between 25 and 40 parts of Carbon to each part of Nitrogen.
Because it must be complicated to calculate this ratio we will give some hint or clues to help us know when the decomposition of organic matter is not being done well.
- If it gives off too much heat and juices, the content is of greasy texture, if the stench is too strong and there are flies, there is too much Nitrogen.
- If, on the other hand, it takes a long time to decompose, the matter contains whitish parts of mould inside, there is too much carbon.
- Small classification where we distinguish between materials that contain Carbon and materials that contain Nitrogen:
- They contain Carbon: Branches of trees, paper, cardboard, straw, hay, plants at the end of their life cycle, dry leaves. In general any woody and dry material.
- They contain Nitrogen: Young plants, young and green leaves, remains of vegetables and fruits, legumes, coffee grounds, eggshells, manure.
If it is too dry, the bacteria, enzymes and micro-organisms responsible for the decomposing organic matter will not be able to perform their functions. If there is too much humidity, instead of fermenting aerobically it will do so anaerobically due to lack of air, that is, it will rot. The resulting components in such a case are very acidic and have properties contrary to compost.
There are different methods of composting, choosing one method or another will depend mainly on four factors; the organic matter we generate or have for composting, space we have to carry out the operation, and the time and money we want to invest in the development of compost.
The composting process takes place directly on the crop soil. Leaving the organic matter on the soil, in the form of straw padding, or other organic matter such as green manure, is left to decompose by the action of microbial life and insects of the environment while, little by little, this decomposition is penetrating into the soil, benefiting very noticeably the fertility of it.
This method has the advantage that it is less laborious than other forms of composting. We take advantage of the fertility that comes from the decomposition process as such, i.e. compost is not only beneficial as a final product, but the products that are obtained throughout composting are also of vital importance for the fertility and structure of the soil.
Against this form of composting, we will say that it can only be done if we cultivate in open soil, and that kitchen waste is bad to decompose with this method.
Composting in piles
Another very common method is heap composting, which consists of adding all the organic materials to be decomposed together and in a heap. This pile is covered with straw and is watered as needed, never water more than necessary, it is important to check temperature and humidity. Regularly you have to turn the pile or pile adding matter rich in nitrogen and carbon. The pile needs approximately a minimum volume of 1 cubic meter so that it can have a good fermentation.
It is a very convenient method because we can select and combine various materials, add minerals and other nutrients and allows us to control the entire composting process very well. On the other hand, to say that it can be laborious, it requires quite a lot of space, normally it is done in open ground.
Domestic composting methods
Composter for orchard and garden
An interesting method for a small orchard or garden is composting. The composting bin is normally a plastic container.
specially designed for composting. It is conveniently perforated to ensure proper ventilation, consists of a bottom hatch to remove the compost and top access with the lid to load organic matter. The composter must be in direct contact with the soil, normally bounded by a plastic grid that prevents the entry of small animals such as moles or mice.
Its operation is very simple, although it is always necessary to pay attention to the Carbon/Nitrogen ratio and humidity. The organic matter must be loaded through the upper part of the compost, as the decomposition progresses the decomposed material is lodged in the lower part, after a few weeks we can begin to remove the material already composted.
It is a method that requires little space, is little laborious and simple to perform, very suitable for composting kitchen waste. Keep in mind that often the composting cycle is slow, especially in winter months.
A form of composting increasingly used in the domestic environment is vermicomposting. This technique consists of regularly depositing the kitchen waste suitable for composting inside a vermicomposter, together with worms that will transform the organic matter into compost, or in this case, worm humus.
There are several sizes of vermicomposters, all of which can be placed on balconies or terraces, they do not need to be in contact with the ground, and very importantly, they do not give off bad smells. They are removable containers that are usually made of plastic or wood. They can have from three to five levels, individual trays perforated in the bottom that are superimposed one on top of the other, where, from top to bottom, the organic remains are descending decomposed by the worms, finishing in the lower levels where we will collect the so appreciated humus of worm.
We will add from the beginning the worms to the container, specially selected by their voracity we will choose Californian red worms. As at the beginning there will be few remains of food and organic matter, it is better to prepare a wet paper hideout in a corner, as these worms are very sensitive to light.
Common earthworms will not help us as they do not feed on plant debris and depend on long networks of galleries. A kilo of Californian red worms is capable of digesting half a kilo of organic remains per day. But these worms do not like citrus skins or lilies, so we avoid putting orange, lemon, onion or garlic skins.
This is an almost odourless composting method that takes up little space, ideal for recycling part of the organic waste generated by a family. The compost resulting from vermicomposting, earthworm humus, is one of the best ecological fertilizers we can apply to the soil or substrates of our crops. The vermicomposter is the ideal complement for an urban garden of a balcony or terrace.