Thursday, September 29, 2011

Permaculture Projects: Composting

The Classic Compost Bin

I received a comment on Facebook asking me for resources on composting and vermiculture (worm composting).  My initial thought was that I would write a quick post on composting.  I would then do some more research on vermiculture before I wrote that post since I have yet to do any vermiculture myself.  However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that what I have done and know to do is more complicated than just a simple post.  Instead, what I thought I would do is share some of my basic thoughts on composting, and then share some of my favorite resources on composting.

When I have time, I will go back and write about what I have done specifically with composting, the variations/experimenting I have done, and the lessons I have learned.  I will also write a post soon about vermiculture - it is really cool!

There are a couple of things I want to point out first...

One of the many modern (and pricey) compost tumbler designs.

Mesophilic Composting
Mesophilic (ME-zoh-fill-ick) composting is composting done at temperatures that are warm but not too hot.  This is what most people think of when someone says "compost pile".  This is how most backyard composters expect to run a compost pile or bin.  Certain things that can be pathogenic (disease causing) should not be placed in a mesophilic compost pile.  These are things like meat, bones, cooking oils, animal and human feces, diseased crops, etc.  The temperatures typically do not maintain a high enough temperature for long enough to kill the pathogens potentially found in these items, so they should be avoided.

Thermophilic Composting
Thermophilic composting is composting done at very hot temperatures.  Thermophilic composting has been proven (over and over in many research studies) to kill all known human pathogens (parasites, bacteria, viruses, etc.), all known plant pathogens, and all weed seeds.  All home or "backyard" composters have the ability to easily make their mesophilic compost pile a thermophilic compost pile.  You just need a bit more space, plenty of moisture, plenty of aeration, a good C:N ration (that's carbon to nitrogen ratio - read all about this in the links below), and plenty of time.  A thermophilic compost pile should sit for at least a year before it is used.  If you have the time and the space, then this is the type of composting I would highly recommend.  You can truly recycle all organic material.  Period.  It is the most efficient and resource conserving method of composting.  The Humanure Handbook, which I highlighted a few days ago here, extensively discusses thermophilic composting.

Composting and Permaculture
As this blog is about Permaculture, I need to say that composting is a no-brainer when it comes to Permaculture.  Permaculture Principle One (Observe and Interact) and Six (Produce No Waste) dovetaile nicely in composting.  If we observe nature, we see that in nature there is no waste.  Everything is recycled.  If we are trying to emulate nature, we should compost as much as we can.  This is just one way to be truly sustainable.

Get out and start composting!
Finally, if you are thinking about starting a compost pile, just get out there and do it.  You can learn as you go.  It is so easy.  You will feel good about doing it.  You will end up with a great resource that your plants will love!

Composting Resources:  This is a good site for the simple basics of composting (also has a page on vermiculture). - Composting: This is the Environmental Protection Agency's information page on composting.  It is well organized and very extensive.  Excellent information. - Where You Live:  This is the Environmental Protection Agency's link page to each state's composting page. Yeah, pretty much every state has a composting page! A really good site on composting.  It has a lot of its own information, but it also has a bunch of links to other pages on the internet.  Not as well organized as it could be, and some of the links are dead, but overall, there is a lot of good information on this site.

1 comment:

  1. Would love to read more of your thoughts and experiences on composting!