English: Composting
English: Composting (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Composting Part Two

Passive, Active or Aggressive Composting Method?
Now that you know how composting works and what materials you need * you can choose how much effort you want to put into the project.
How fast do you want your compost finished?
If time is not an issue, try passive composting.
Passive or cold composting requires little to no maintenance. You basically add to the pile and leave nature take its course. This method may take 6 months to a year to finish the process.
Cold composting methods work better in controlling soil-borne diseases since it doesn’t rapidly reach high a temperature. This gives the good microbes time to “do their stuff.”
Holding bins work well for this type of composting. These bins are made out of lightweight material so they can be taken apart to be moved or to get at finished compost on the bottom. The bins can be made out of chicken wire, old pallets, snow fencing, wood or purchased as prefabricated units.
Aggressive or hot composting can give you compost in as little as two weeks to a month.
You can use holding bins or construct turning bins to better access the whole pile. Turning bins are nothing more than a series of stalls; open in front for easy access.
If you use holding bins do not add new material as it starts decomposing; instead start a new bin. To speed up the process, turn every three days by chopping vertically into the pile with a pitchfork to break up materials.

General guidelines for compost bins

  • Bins should be 3′ x 3′ x 3′ minimum to generate proper heat but no bigger than 5′ x 5′ x 5′. Larger sizes compact materials and are hard to move and turn.
  • Leave an open bottom for more decomposing organisms to enter
  • Place in part shade to shade area to help keep the sun from drying out the pile.
  • Layer the pile with browns and greens
  • bury kitchen scraps
  • keep moist but not wet (like a squeezed out sponge)
  • Add materials as they become available.
  • Turn every 4 to 6 days. If odors develop, turn more frequently.

Your compost is ready when the pile has shrunk to one third its size, is cool to the touch, crumbly, dark brown or black and has an earthy odor.

Allow your finished compost to cure for about a month before you use it to make sure it is finished processing and won’t burn your plants or deplete nitrogen.
*refer to Compost Made Easy Part One

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