Clever Solution to Everday Problems #57: Composting

I have seen many customers struggle with the decision whether or not they should compost.  Part of the decision-making process involves overcoming odor, bugs, rodents, and lack of success in the past.  Composting at home should be easy, fun, and not a chore.

The basics of composting:

Composting is the basic collection of organic matter to be transformed into a tea based fertilizer and/or soil amendment.

Organic matter can either be decomposed or fermented depending on the method selected.

The purpose of the compost byproduct is to return fundamental nutrients, micro-organisms, and fundamental fungi back into our environment and yards. If we create a richer soil several changes will occur.

First, the soil will open up and become less dense.  This porosity allows rainfall to enter into the soil and be held for a sustained period of time.  It prevents water shed into the storm drains, therefore bypassing our aquifers.

Secondly, the root system of plants expands thereby holding water for longer periods of time.

Lastly, organic matter added to soil moves the standard bacterial based soil found in Central Texas over to a fungal based soil.  In a fungal based soil the environment is not friendly to weeds and/or insects.  Composting can eliminate the need for chemical pest and weed control.

To accomplish change in organic matter into what gardeners call “black gold” you must keep the compost moist (not sodden wet or arid dry), ensure it is aerated for oxygen, and maintain a balance between carbon and nitrogen.

Types of Compost containers:702108-2

Personal preference is using a decomposition style compost unit for yard waste and clippings, with the addition of a fermentation barrel for food waste.  The tea created from the fermentation process can be added to the yard waste containers to accelerate the decomposition process and also fend off odor, bugs, and rodents!

Compost corral or bin:

This can be a simple or elaborate unit depending on your level of carpentry skills and the amount of monies you are willing to spend.  However, the most basic bin available out there is the pallet composter.  If you use 4 pallets you can create a corral that is fast, easy and effective.  You will also need angle brackets, straps, a pitch fork, and a spade.  Additional items are hose nozzles for misting and possibly a tarp for covering the pile during rainy seasons (to keep moist but not sopping).

Balance between Carbon and Nitrogen:

There should be a 30:1 ratio of Carbon to Nitrogen.  Sound complicated?

It actually is fairly simple.  If the Carbon level is to high the compost production slows down.  If the Nitrogen level rises to high you end up with a stinky heap!

So what types of material is Carbon or Nitrogen?  The following chart from Planet Natural (www.planetnatural.com) can help:

Estimated Carbon-to-Nitrogen Ratios

Browns = High Carbon C:N
Ashes, wood 25:1
Cardboard, shredded 350:1
Corn stalks 75:1
Fruit waste 35:1
Leaves 60:1
Newspaper, shredded 175:1
Peanut shells 35:1
Pine needles 80:1
Sawdust 325:1
Straw 75:1
Wood Chips 400:1
Greens = High Nitrogen C:N
Alfalfa 12:1
Clover 23:1
Coffee grounds 20:1
Food waste 20:1
Garden waste 30:1
Grass clippings 20:1
Hay 25:1
Manures 15:1
Seaweed 19:1
Vegetable scraps 25:1
Weeds 30:1

“Note: Many ingredients used for composting do not have the ideal ratio of 25-30:1. As a result, most must be mixed to create ‘the perfect compost recipe’. High C:N ratios may be lowered by adding grass clippings or manures. Low C:N ratios may be raised by adding paper, dry leaves or wood chips.”

What are the Benefits of Composting?

bokashi*Composting reduces the amount of trash you send to the landfill

*Composting re-purposes your waste into a useful product

*Composting saves you money on water and fertilizers in your garden or yard

*Composting reduces the dependence on fossil fuels

*Composting reduces your carbon footprint

*Composting provides rich nutrients for your soil and garden preparation

Why Fermentation Composting?

Bokashi is able to compost almost all of your food waste including cheese, meat, fish, eggs, eggshells, tea bags, coffee grounds, small bones, fruit, vegetables, etc. You can even compost produce that has accumulated white mold. However, leave any food with black or green mold out.

What is Bokashi?

Bokashi in Japanese means “fermented organic matter”. The fermentation process pickles the organic waste material (food scraps) by adding the culture mix and excluding oxygen in a sealed container. The culture mix includes wheat bran, molasses, and microorganisms. The three microbes combined in the culture mix are fungi/yeast, Lactobacilli (bacteria that produce lactic acid), and phototropic bacilli (purple non-sulfur bacteria). This combination speeds up the process of fermenting food scraps while suppressing the growth of other potentially dangerous organisms.

What Do I Do?(Directions and photos courtesy of www.bokashicycle.com)

  1. Stack the Cyclettes one on top of the other where it is convenient and close to your work. They should be kept indoors where it is warm but not in the direct sun light where they might be heated.
  2. 2.Open the anaerobic lock and remove the pressure plate.
  3. Start by sprinkling 3 – 6 teaspoons of Bokashi culture mix in the bottom of the bucket and place your scraps in the bucket. Add another 3 – 6 spoons of Bokashi culture mix spreading it over the scraps.
  4. Place the pressure plate over the scraps and press down to remove trapped air and seal the Cyclette with the anaerobic lock.
  5. Repeat this process building layers of scraps with layers of Bokashi culture mix until the Cyclette is full.
  6. Once or twice a week drain the liquid (Bokashi tea) from the Cyclette. You may dilute the fluid with water 1: 100 by volume (1 cup to 5 gallons) and use it to water house plants or garden plants. It will also help clear drains and is very useful when added to septic tanks to keep them functioning well.
  7. When the first Cyclette is full, place it below the empty Cyclette and continue processing your scraps.
  8. When the second Cyclette is near full you are ready to place the first Cyclette product in the soil.
  9. In the garden, dig a small trench approximately 1 foot wide by 3 feet and 1 foot deep.
  10. Spread the fermented product in the bottom of the trench and cover with at least 6 inches of soil. Leave this area alone for at least 2 weeks to allow the soil microbes to do their work. You will then have high nutrient soil that can be used with your plants in the garden.
  11. Wash the Cyclette with water (no soap or detergent as it will kill the microbes) and place it on top of the full Cyclette to start again with filling and processing waste.
  12. This cycle can be continued indefinitely and you will build a rich supply of soil for your garden plants that can be used at any time after the 2 weeks processing in the ground.

 

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