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Home Compostingmt9203

Home Compostingmt9203



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Published by: Ikatan Himpunan Mahasiswa Biologi Indonesia on Jan 16, 2009
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Why and how to compost at home. Describes the essential “aerobic”ingredients for effectively composting organic materials such as grassclippings, leaves, some kitchen food scraps into a high quality soilconditioner at home.
MT199203 HR revised 8/03
Solid Waste Management Series
Home Composting
by Michael P. Vogel, Housing and Environmental Quality Specialist
Home composting is a controlledmicrobial process that convertsorganic materials such as grass clip- pings, shredded branches, leaves,and some kitchen food scraps into ahigh-quality soil conditioner. Differ-ent home composting methods can be classied as aerobic (with air)and anaerobic (without air). The rstorganisms to inhabit the pile will beaerobic and will persist until oxygenis gone. Turning the pile allows moreair to enter and aerobic compostingcontinues. In a pile that has settled,has too much moisture and is notmixed, the aerobic microbes will die
yard and food wastes (Brown = Carbonmaterials; Green= Nitrogen materials)+oxygen+moisture+heat
and anaerobic microbes will grow.Anaerobic composting is a slow process that produces foul-smellinggases, yet requires little maintenanceonce the pile is constructed. Odorsare usually controlled by airtight barriers such as layers of soil, plasticsheeting and plastic bins. Aerobiccomposting, described in this Mont-Guide, can be odorless and faster, yetrequires maintenance time and labor.
Why Compost?
Landscape, garden wastes andkitchen food wastes can account for up to 20 percent of the materialsoften disposed of at Montana land-lls. As harmless as these materi-als may seem, they add unwantedmoisture to the landll and can cre-ate landll gases that are explosive.Also, these materials take up a lot of valuable space in alandll. With fewer landlls in Montanaand the difcultlyand expense of sitingnew facilities, it justdoesn’t make senseto dispose of these benecial organicmaterials.Compost is verysimilar to organicmatter found in high-quality, productivesoils and when in-corporated into thegarden, increasessoil quality. It addsdecomposed organic material thatslowly breaks down, providing nu-trients to plants. Organic matter alsoholds water in the soil, an importantreason for adding compost to sandysoils with rapid drainage. With or-ganic matter added, clayey soils drain better and become less sticky andeasier to work. Composting gardenand kitchen wastes means smaller demand on shrinking landll space.With compost providing soil nutri-ents, fewer fertilizers are required,saving money and energy.
Essentials of AerobicComposting
Complete and effectivecomposting is much like using arecipe for making a cake. It is a process of using the proper materi-als and mixing them to achievethat right consistency and balance.Home composting requires a care-ful balance of materials, organisms,moisture, and oxygen. Microscopicorganisms supplied with adequatewater, plenty of oxygen and a largefood supply of organic materials break down wastes and produce heat(Figure 1). The nal product is asmaller volume of dark brown, crum- bly compost that has an earthy scent,is loaded with nutrients and has ideal physical properties.To achieve a satisfying productyour recipe for composting shouldinclude these essentials for producingrich humus that can be added back toyour soil:
compost+moisure+heat+carbon dioxide
Figure 1. Microbial decomposition convertsorganic materials to compost (modied fromDickson et al., 1991).
1. Organic materials2. Mirco-organisms3. Volume of materials4. Particle size of materials5. Oxygen6. Heat7. Moisture
Compost Materials
A wide variety of materials can becomposted. Leaves, grass clippings, plant trimmings, straw, many kitchenscraps and manure are excellent start-ing materials (Table 1). If there is notenough material around the home, youcan obtain material from neighbors,restaurants, grocery stores, farms andlumber mills at little or no cost.Several materials should be avoided because they affect the composting process or the nal product (Table2). Although meat scraps, bones andcheese are composted commercially,they can be slow to degrade and canattract animal pests. Dog and cat ma-nure may contain parasites that escapedestruction in the composting processand should be avoided, especially if the compost will be used on vegetablecrops. Don't add cooking oil, oilysalad residues or grease, as they cancoat materials in the pile and slow thedegradation process. Carefully con-sider grass and plant clippings sprayedwith herbicides or other chemicals toavoid persistence problems and nega-tive effects on microorganisms (Table3). Don't use diseased plant mate-rial, in order to prevent recurrence of diseases. Some thorny materials likerose clippings may make the compostuncomfortable to work with. Althoughthe interior of a hot compost pile cankill most weed seeds, some seeds areheat resistant or may not get thor-oughly heated. Therefore, compostnuisance weeds before their seeds ma-ture, or keep them separate from com- post that will be used in the garden.Rhizomatous weeds such as morningglory or quackgrass may also survive a pile that doesn’t heat adequately.Select compostable materials bytheir carbon/brown and nitrogen/greencontent. All organic materials consistof a certain amount of total carbon(C)/brown materials and nitrogen (N)/green materials. The microorganisms
Table 1. Common Composting Materials (Organic Gardening, 1990)
CoffeegroundsRestaurants, ofcesGood N sourceCorncobsand stalksFarms, canneries,garden refuseBest when ground or used as amulch texturizer; high in CEggshellsEgg farms,restaurantsCalcium and N sourceFish andshellshscrapsFish markets,restaurantsHigh in N and trace minerals, butsmellyFruit wastesCanneries,restaurants, marketdumpsBanana peels are rich in KGrassclippingsLawn mowing, lawnservices, neighborsʼbags set at curbsideUse only herbicide-free clippings;high in N; decompose rapidlyand help heat up compost pile;smelly unless blended with C-richmaterialsHayFarmsBulky; high in C; alfalfa highest inNLeavesWoods, dumpings inparks or at curbsideLeaf mold (decomposed leaves) anexcellent soil texturizer; containgrowth inhibitors if not rstcomposted; shred before adding topi1eManureFarms, stables,poultry houses,feedlotsFrom high to low N: pigeon,chicken, duck, horse, rabbit, pig,cow, sheepPeanutshellsPeanut butterprocessorsGood soil texturizer withmoderate humus potential; slow tobreakdown; high in C and KPineneedlesWoods, evergreenplantingsHighly acid N source; use on acid-loving crops or with neutralizerSawdust,shavings,woodchipsLumberyards, treesurgeons, sawmills,carpentry shopsHigh in C; exceedingly slowto break down; never add freshsawdust directly to soilStablebedding,sweepingsStables, farmBetter nutrient balance than manurealoneVegetablewasteCanneries,restaurants, sortedgarbage, food stores,farmsPea pods very high in NWeedsGardens, elds, ponddredgingsCut before seeds set, or use in hotcompost pile; purslane is high in NWheatstraw, oatstrawFarmsHigh in C; slow to break downWood ashFireplaces, woodstoves, woodfurnaces, bonresK and P but no N; use sparingly(strongly alkaline); donʼt use ashesfrom res started with charcoal orpainted wood
 N = nitrogen; P = phosphorus; C = carbon; K = potassium
3Table 2. Materials that should not be in acompost pile (Dickson et al., 1991)
BonesCat manurePeanut butterButterDog ma-nureSalad dressingCheeseFish scrapsSour creamChickenMayonnaiseVegetable oilLardMeatMilk
Table 3. Persistence of common herbicides in soil(Rosen et al., 1988)
CommonNameTrade NamesLongevity inSoil (Months)
BenenBalan, Baln4-8DCPADacthal4-8BensulideBetasan, Prefar6-12Glypho-sateRoundup, Klee-nupless than 12,4-D(many formula-tions)1-2
Table 4. Carbon to nitrogen ratios for selectedmaterials (Dickson et al., 1991)
 MaterialC:N (by weight)Materials with high nitrogen values
Vegetable wastes12-20:1Coffee grounds20:1Grass clippings12-25:1Cow manure20:1Horse manure25:1Horse manure with litter30-60:1Poultry manure (fresh)10:1Poultry manure (with litter)13-18:1Pig manure5-7:1
Materials with high carbon values
Foliage (leaves)30-80:1Corn stalks60:1Straw40-100:1Bark100-130:1Paper150 - 200 :1Wood chips and sawdust100-500:1
that feed on the material prefer a car- bon to nitrogen (C:N) ratio of approxi-mately 30 to 1 (30:1), by weight. Eachmaterial has a different C:N ratio. For example, dried leaves (brown materi-als) have a high ratio (low in nitrogen),while grass clippings and green leafymaterial have a lower C:N ratio (highin nitrogen). Generally speaking, greenmaterials and manure have a highnitrogen content, and brown materialshave a low nitrogen content (Table 4).Building a home compost pile with theideal nitrogen level is challenging, butyou can usually obtain good results byalternating layers of green and brownmaterials. By carefully combiningmaterials in the pile, the average C:Nratio can be brought close to 30:1.In a balanced compost pile, enoughnitrogen is added by the green mate-rial for microbes to decompose brownmaterials, and excess nitrogen in thegreen materials is utilized by microbesand not lost to the atmosphere.
Essential to the rapid decomposi-tion of organic materials are micro-organisms, bacteria, fungi, insects andworms. The proper type and balanceof organic materials provides thesource of food and protein for mi-cro-organisms to live and reproduce.Bacteria and micro-organisms arealready present on dead plant mate-rial introduced to the compost pile.However, to boost the organic levelof the pile, add a shovel full of richsoil with earthworms. Many backyardcomposters also claim the most effec-tive composting is done with piles and bins that are in contact with the earth, providing greater access for micro-or-ganisms to enter the compost. “Earth-contact” composting can also enhancethe survival rate of organisms shouldthe pile essentials periodically change.
Volume of Materials
The volume size of the organicmaterial is critical. While a larger pileof material will break down faster thana smaller pile, larger piles are alsomore difcult to manage. To maintainoptimum moisture and temperaturelevels, create a pile size of 3 feet wide by 3 feet deep by 3 feet high (3' x 3'x 3') at a minimum. In locations withwidely varying daily temperatures, thevolume could be increased, but for easy turning it shouldnot exceed 4' x 4' x 4'.
 Pile Tips
1. The volume of ma-terials in the compost pileshould be equal on all sidesas the pile is built. Tapered,at and narrow piles will notheat up or maintain consis-tent moisture and heatlevels for effectivecomposting.2. In cold climates,insulate the pile sideswith hay/straw balesand the top with rigidinsulation panels tohelp create and holdheat in the pile.
Particle Size ofMaterials
If you shred thematerials, they willcompost faster. How-ever, coarser materi-als, although prone todrying, add porosityto the pile and help air come in contact withmaterials. Conversely,ne sized materialshold moisture, butcan get matted down.Small branches can beclipped into pieces twoto three inches long,mechanically shred-ded and cautiouslyreduced in size with alawn mower. Heavier  branches, larger than aquarter inch in diam-eter should be chopped,shredded or avoided.
Aerobic compostingrequires introducingoxygen into the pile.This is referred to as“aeration.” Aeration is simply turningthe materials in the pile or bin with ashovel or fork.How often you should turn your  pile to introduce oxygen is generally afunction of the odor of the pile and itstemperature. However, while turningthe pile to introduce oxygen is essen-tial, it is a timing balancing act. Turn-ing the pile too often will cool the piledown and slow decomposition of thematerial. On the other hand, not turn-ing enough will cause the pile to goanaerobic (composting without oxy-gen). Anaerobic composting producesfoul smelling gases.

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