Composting is like baking. It can be done using a wide variety of ingredients and recipes. Composting is actually the decomposition of various organic materials, reverting their physical state into a form where those materials can be readily taken up by plants to grow and sustain their biological needs.
An ideal compost blend will have a balance of carbon and nitrogen-based material in a ratio of about 30:1 (30 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen). Common carbon-based materials found on farms are sawdust, straw, wood chips, cardboard and dry leaves. Common nitrogen-based materials are manure, urine, unconsumed feed, green grass clippings, food waste and unconsumed feed or hay. In creating an ideal environment for the microorganisms, the material should have a moisture content of between 60-65% and have porosity, allowing airflow into the pile. Wood chips or chopped branches are ideal for increasing aeration.
Composting can be performed in three basic manners:
Aerobic Composting (w/air flow into the material). A well blended compost pile made with the above ingredients will create an ideal environment for microorganisms to attack the material. When this occurs, the pile temperature will spike to 160F within a few days and will maintain this temperature for a few weeks depending on airflow and moisture content. Using a tractor bucket to lift and flip the material allows needed air into the pile, re-starting the aerobic decomposition process. Typically the pile is flipped at a 2-3 week period, one month later and then another 30 days later at which point it can be stockpiled, screened and cured prior to sale or use.
Static Aerated Composting.
All of the above parameters apply except that, as opposed to turning the pile with a bucket loader or machine, a series of perforated PVC pipes are installed below the length of the pile and a blower is used, set on timers, to force and push oxygen into the compost pile. The amount of time required to make the compost is about the same and forced air injection is reduced as the curing process progresses.
Vermicomposting (Worm Composting).
This process involves harnessing the ability of red worms (Eisenia Foetida), who, in nature, are surface feeders responsible for breaking down organic materials on the soil surface, making it available for plant use.
Worm composting can be performed in small controlled containers referred to as worm bins, or done on a large-scale basis. In both cases, the feedstock being fed to the worms is allowed to go through an initial composting phase or decompose through the assistance of microorganisms. Worm castings are material that has passed through the digestive tract of a worm. The digestive process breaks the material down into a form where it is more water soluble than normal compost. As well, worm castings are high in Auxins which are generated in the worm?s digestive tract and are primary growth promoters for plants.