What is compost and why should you use it?

What is compost?
Compost is the end product of decomposed organic matter that is aerobic and full of active beneficial soil microorganisms.

Why should I use compost?
When used in soil, compost has the ability to suppress plant disease, decrease the need for fertilizers, increase and retain nutrient content in soil, increase water retention, and increase soil microorganisms biomass and diversity.

How to use it?
You can apply compost to the soil as a solid, extract, or tea.

Different composting methods
Aerobic Thermal, Verma, and Static.

Aerobic Thermal (ATC) is more labor intensive compared to the other methods and requires monitoring. ATC has the ability to kill off human/plant pathogens, weed seeds, and root-feeding nematodes. Based on the materials given, bacteria utilize the material as food and multiply in a rapid rate, making the pile hot. Depending on the recipe, the compost pile can reach up to 160-180 F or more. However, you would want to keep the pile temperatures below 160 F and above 131 F for about 10-15 days. Within 10-15 days, the pile should be turned at least 5 times to ensure that the pile’s contents have been cooked thoroughly and oxygen is freely flowing throughout the pile.  It can be ready to be used within 6-8 weeks.

Thermal composting

Thermal composting Hatit 2016.jpg(Photo of my students in Haiti)

Vermicompost (worm compost) is a continual process and less labor intensive compared to ATC and static composting. This composting method needs red wiggler worms to encourage decomposition. Small bins are ideal to keep control over the conditions that the worms are living in. The foods that they prefer must have a bite to it. For example, lettuce, green vegetables, fruits, avocados, cardboard, newspaper, leaves, garden waste, and fruit pulp to name a few. No soupy foods and use small amounts of citrus and coffee if you’d like to use them. Do not use more than a couple peels or an ounce of coffee grounds per week. Too much citrus or coffee kills the worms since they have sensitive skin. Red wigglers create a perfect environment for diverse microbiology to flourish.

Vermicompost

Static compost is a neglected approach and less labor intensive compared to ATC. Static composting is best to use if you have a household of food scraps and yard waste that you do not want to throw away, and do not have the equipment, knowledge, or time to do ATC.  Use an equal ratio of greens to browns. The best way to go about static composting is to have a mound of wood chips and leaves with food scraps buried within.  You can start placing your food scraps from the bottom and work your way around the mound and up to the top. To keep wild critters from your pile, make sure to have your food scraps buried in the mound to the point that there are no smells. (about 6 inches deep) After placing food in the mound and you’ve reached the top, you can turn the pile every 2-3 months to make sure it is well aerated and decomposing evenly. Compost should be finished after 6 months to 1 year.

Static Compost 5

Static Compost3.jpg

Good luck and happy composting!

Love,
LaToya

Interested in the difference between compost tea and extract? Click on my link here: https://emeraldhearth.wordpress.com/2017/04/05/compost-compost-tea-and-extract/

If you have any questions please contact me at emeraldhearths@gmail.com

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