Considerations and Tips for Composting
Now that you’ve selected an area on your property for your composting, have your bin in place or under construction, know what to put in and how to care for your pile, there’s just a few more considerations to go over before you get started.
Most composting is done in the spring and summer months but it is possible to compost year round. The reason for warm weather composting is that heat is such an important element to the process. Even though the compost process itself generates heat, the warmth from the weather certainly helps everything along.
Most composts goes dormant in the winter months and start-up again with the spring thaw and warmer temperatures. But if you live in a milder climate that does not get harsh winters, there is a way to continue to compost during the winter months.
You can insulate your compost bin. Using a plastic garbage can dig a hole big and deep enough to put at least six inches of the can underground. Use a natural insulating material such as straw and pack it around the base and up the sides of the can. Continue to compost as you would at any other time of the year.
Even though this method will still work in the winter months, the speed at which the material will decompose will still be slowed down. Winter composting will allow you to continue recycling your kitchen scraps throughout the colder months and you may even have compost at the beginning of spring to use in your garden.
The spring and fall are the best times to collect leaves to start a new compost bin. In the spring, the leaves you collect have already started to decompose as they stayed wet and insulated throughout the winter. It doesn’t matter though if you collect your leaves in either season – they are the perfect base for a new compost pile. If you are using dry leaves from the fall, consider putting them through a chipper of some kind. If they are smaller and already cut up it will aid in the whole composting system.
What If Your Compost Pile Won’t Heat Up?
Most of the concerns or problems that you will encounter with your compost pile are minor and relatively easy to rectify. They involve rotating the pile more; adjusting the material you are putting in; and layering enough brown food for the top layer. The issue of your pile not heating up will require more investigation.
The first thing to consider when your pile won’t heat up (when you are using the hot or active compost method) is if you have enough green and brown food added. If your pile is new this will take time. But if you have an established pile that won’t heat up, either your pile is too large or you are not adding enough to start the decomposing process.
Another reason your compost pile may not be heating up is the presence of too much brown food. If you have added a lot of leaves or other brown matter (high in carbon), put in more green food that is high in nitrogen. The presence of carbon and nitrogen is necessary in the correct ratio (2:1).
If your pile is too dry this will prevent it from getting hot too. The microbes need a moist environment to do their work. Add just enough water to make the pile damp or add moist green food such as vegetable or fruit waste and grass clippings.
When you are using the hot composting method, remember to keep all matter smaller than three inches. This will speed up the process and ensure all matter is broken up evenly. If the mixture has large pieces it can delay the heating up process.
Weather is a factor too. If you are concerned that your compost is not heating up and it is fall or winter – most likely it is too cold for the process to start. As mentioned, you can try insulating your compost pile or wait for the spring.
Composting Tips and Tricks
Unlike the aging body, you do not need the elixir of youth to be able to ensure that your compost heap is at its glorious best, thriving and able to function well on your soil. Few people are attracted with passivity of all forms, especially in compost, which is supposed to be a hot pot of activity for yielding greatest returns in the environment and farm land business people.
The good thing about composting is that you can easily keep it dynamic with consistency and a host of other techniques that are tried and tested by many a composting enthusiast or advocate.
We went through some of these tips in previous articles, but it’s good to go over them again to hammer home these guidelines.
Balance the ingredients
Primarily, the basic thing to keep or maintain for a compost heap to be active is balance of ingredients. If you have too much of a single component, your compost may eventually die down. Remember that a compost is inherently comprised of numerous organic matter, and to keep it in top condition means that you must also maintain the variety of materials you put in your compost heap.
Over time, some ingredients in the compost heap may dominate over the others, so make it a point to replenish your compost bin and have it checked frequently.
Use the right bin or container
We already covered container selection in detail, but if you’ve built your own bin or repurposing an existing bin or space, you may need to make some adjustments.
The right bin will set you on the right path of dynamic composting. If you layer your materials well, but in an inefficient container, the compost will become passive over time. Ensure that the container itself is optimized for compost, free of unbalanced ventilation with no areas unprotected from pests that may affect your compost heap’s growth.
Dampen but don’t soak
Soaking is primary evil to your compost. Have the right amount of moisture, but do not drown the compost heap to the point that it won’t be of any vital impact to your soil. Make sure that you are able to draw out more humus than water from your compost heap so that you will be paid back well for your hard labor in building your compost heap.
Aeration is the other wing along with ample moisture in making your compost heap fly. If you provide your compost heap with enough air, the bacteria that produces humus will thrive and will help exceed your expectations of compost heap performance. If you are really hell-bent on keeping your compost heap dynamic, make sure that you have enough air, but not too much that it will over-expose the pile and defeat the purpose of creating a good compost heap.
Check the temperature
There is an ideal temperature for composting. Ensure that the compost heap maintains this temperature otherwise the whole reaction for composting will not be sustained or completed. Have a thermometer handy every day when you inspect your composting heap. If possible, find thermometers that are created for composting purposes.
Have a fixed area for composting
Though some bins are design to be easily transported, it is not recommended to have a mobile composting heap. For example, if you have your composting formula dialed in and predictable, moving your bin to an area that gets less sunlight may the lower temperature and throw off your process. Even if you think the old and new location receive the same amount of sunlight it usually isn’t the case. Because the sun changes position, reflections, temperature of surrounding structures, moving your bin will certainly change the pile’s temperature. It’s best to leave it one place if you can to ensure an efficient process.
Those are some last-minute considerations and tips in ensure a successful composting process. For more detail of these tips, please review the previous articles in this series: