5 Types of Composting Method

Compost is one of the most energy efficient and green ways of improving the quality of the soil on a permaculture plot. It avoids wastage by transforming refuse from the garden and the kitchen into nutrient-rich humus that when added to soil will provide the plants growing in it a plentiful supply of the nutrients they need to grow, thrive and set abundant crops.

There are two fundamental forms of composting technique: hot and cold. The former is quicker at turning organic material into usable compost, but does require more time and effort from the permaculture gardener to achieve the effect. Hot composting involves keeping the temperature at the center of the compost pile elevated, ideally to somewhere between 110 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. The pile needs to be kept moist – so that it is the consistency of a damp sponge – and the gardener needs to turn it once a week or so. This moves colder material from the outside of the pile to the inside where it is heated and so breaks down into rich humus more quickly. Hot composting has the advantage that it will produce useable compost quickly, and the high temperatures mean that it can break down weed seeds. The permaculture gardener should avoid adding such seeds to cold composting methods, as the more passive form of transformation does not reach the temperatures required to break them down. Cold composting essentially means creating a compost pile and leaving nature to do its job. It requires less input from the gardener, but does mean that useable compost can take up to a year to be ready.

The ingredients for both hot and cold composting are the same, with roughly equal parts brown and green material. The brown material consists of items such as branch prunings, leaves and twigs, while the green portion comprises things like fruit and vegetable scraps and grass clippings. To this can be added livestock manure (although do not use cat or dog waste, as these can contain pathogens that are harmful to humans), and soil (which will contain bacteria and microorganisms that will start to break down the material), along with such miscellaneous items as coffee grounds, shredded newspaper and eggshells. However, while the ingredients are similar, within the two categories of hot and cold composting there are several different methods you can use to create compost for your permaculture plot.

Bin
Referred to in industrial agriculture as ‘in-vessel composting’ composting in a bin essentially refers to any method that utilizes a closed container. It is an easy technique and is adaptable to many different types of permaculture plot, being suitable for gardens, courtyards and even balconies. The contained nature of the bin means that you can compost all year round, but while turning isn’t required, the lack of aeration does mean that the composting process can take upwards of six months, depending on factors such as material used and local climatic conditions. You can purchase a general all-purpose bin or recycle any large enclosed container, such as a barrel.

Turning Bin
To quicken the process of bin composting, you can fabricate or purchase a container that can be turned. A crank and pivot means that the whole container can be rotated, shifting the contents so that they are aerated, and thus quickening the decomposition process. However, they are unlikely to reach the high temperatures required for hot composting, so this is a cold technique, although, depending on the materials, a turning bin can produce useable compost within two months.

Pile
A pile is simply that: a mound of compost that is open to the air. Some gardeners use recycled bricks or lumber to build a containing wall around three sides of the pile, while other will construct a cage from chicken wire to stop the compost pile spreading too much. Ideally a pile will be wider than it is high, as this helps it retain heat better, but a pile can be used in whatever space is available; it will just take a bit longer for the compost to be ready. (If possible have two piles so that when one has reached a manageable size it can be left to its own devices while new material can be added to the second pile.) The length of time for decomposition will also depend upon whether you choose to turn a pile or not. It is optional, and therefore pile composting can be used for either hot or cold composting.

Sheet
Sheet composting is very similar to mulching, in that a layer of organic material is spread over the garden bed and types of compostingallowed to decompose in situ. While mulching tends to use a layer of a single material, such as straw or wood chips, sheet composting involves using different types of material, such as leaves, debris from the garden, kitchen scraps and grass clippings. In conventional gardens, the compost is usually dug or tilled into the topsoil, but as a permaculture gardener wishes to minimize digging the soil, you may want to spread the compost on the ground then add a layer of mulch such as straw over the top. This will increase the rate of decomposition and prevent the compost from being eroded away by rain and wind.

Pit
A step on from sheet composting is the pit or trench method. This is primarily used for composting fruit and vegetable scraps from the kitchen. It involves digging shallow holes or trenches into which the scraps are placed and then recovered with the soil. The anaerobic organisms within the soil then break down the material over six to twelve months. IA cold composting technique, it has the benefit of keeping the compost out of sight and is a useful method for when you are establishing new garden beds, as it gives the plants a consistent supply of nutrients in the root area. However, it does require the labor of digging the holes and is not suitable for brown material such as twigs as these would take too long to break down to give the plants any benefit.

105 comments

I value my clay highly as it holds a lot of minerals, not a lot of nutrients, but a lot of minerals. When amended with compost and other organics, it makes a great soil and, eventually, tilthe.

Mickey Tasker

It’s the only way…

Lazycompost.com

Max Zen

There is another method. You can just take dig a hole. Place vegetable, fish, egg shells and cover. That’s all.

Cool, thanks for sharing.

Does anyone know where to get worms for my compost bins?

We do the pile technique, mostly because we are busy doing lots of other stuff and don’t want to take the time to turn it over (we also have lots of space). We’ll add walls one day and start turning things over. Funny thing is, our techniqueI works well, providing our gardens with incredible soil.

As mulch as possible…

I opened up a new garden plot this fall and would like to try the veganic method. I am not vegan but, it seems to make sense rather than importing $$$ of manure since I don’ thave livestock. Being market garden on an island with many vegans this could be great marketing. I plan to use EM and kobashi. If anyone is doing this and have any tips I would love if you could reply to this comment.

We have several piles and a large back yard. We use each pile as mulch as it turns into soil.

Michael Hollihn

If someone wants some superfertilizer organic (you’ll have to leach the salt out of it) and is willing to come pick it up I could be convinced to bring in the spent contents of crabbing baitjars. This stuff is super-stinky, will fuck up your clothes, and will piss off your neighbors, but will sell for quite a bit after it has been desalted. I won’t do this for free (it is a raging pain in the ass) nor will I store it. We do a couple hundred pounds a week. Great for a small to medium sized organic farm. Better than guano once leached.

We don’t have Walmart here.

I have ordered worms here & am super satisfied unclejimswormfarm.com/

Where I live we can’t have gardens or compost piles but I grow veggies and herbs in containers. I put any food scraps that won’t attract critters or bugs on top of the soil (like trimmings from greens, vegetables, onions, etc.) in each container and allow them to gradually decompose into the soil. It helps mulch them as well.

I tried to do the vermicomposting with worms from the yard. But they all died!!!!!!!

Unfortunately I am not sure that they will ship to Turkey. I guess I have to dug some out of the ground.

They were YARD WORMS

I use compost, chicken and duck and rabbit manure and stove ashes. I also bury the remains of fish I clean in the garden.

I got my worms from Uncle Jim’s also but I doubt they ship to other countries. Monad Elohim, there are composting worms called European Nightcrawlers and African Nightcrawlers that might be more available for shipping to Turkey.

I’m on a farm… goin into bee keeping and permaculture projects this year.

Mulch pile for grass clippings leaf littre and food scraps n egg shells ash. Rabbit droppings go straight into garden or around the lawn.

kitchen scraps in a bucket with effective micro-organisms in bokashi to get started, then I add that to the compost pile with leaf litter and grass clippings, ash from the wood stove, weed matter, twigs broken down, all together and leave it to brew…

Compost tea!!

Lisa Thompson

I’ve been composting for years! I live in central fla, so our ground is very sandy, lacking organic material. However, composting everything from horse manure with bedding, chicken manure, anything ecceptable from the kitchen and garden (which is alot), we drive around local communities picking up bagged leaves set out for trash pick up, mushroom compost

But they were the red ones used for compost…?

compost and love 🙂

dig up a couple and they will multiply in a bin with soil.

Thank you, I will give it a try.

Winter puts 8 feet of snow on top for 5 months and the dirt freezes down 3 feet.

Compost compost and compost

My chickens and ducks browse in my garden in the winter. I use my sheep, goat and foul manure in the garden, compost pile and directly on the field that will be planted in pasture next spring. Everything I grow feed me or my animals.

Composting can change the world…one patch of ground at a time. Go thermophiles!

Cynthia McKay

No poison no pesticides

Green manures are my favorite most effective soil improvement method. Plant a green manure (clover/buckwheat/rye etc) let it almost flower and then turn into the soil. Excellent for weed suppression, soil improvement, increase of organic matter, nitrogen fixing and more!

Timothy Lee McEnroe

A mix of dead leaves, used coffee grounds, vegetable peeling, grass cutting.

totally agree, have my compost cooking..if you know what I mean..lol

anything that the worms like goes into my compost.

Did not know not to put onions and citrus peels in!

I love composting everything from the kitchen waste to the used bedding from the goat shed. It has transformed my soil from clay pan to living earth.

I compost and I have a compost barrel that has a turn handle.. It’s great..I’m sure that’s why my gardens thrive.. Love composting.. Gardening season can’t come soon enough..

Aaron Harney check these out.

Amber Hamp we should compost!!

I let my chicken do the work when dumping kitchen scraps. They scratch and scratch and them I rake it towards the already composted pile and start over again.

Sharona Erickson

You can order them online. You want to get red wigglers.

Red wigglers are the composting worms

FOR MY SON, ANDREW TO TAKE A LOOK , HE IS OUR “COMPOSTER”

I got mine from a local bait shop, red ones. I didn’t want to order through the mail as the info says they don’t always survive the shipping. Our sandy soil does not have worms naturally, but with enough organic material they do fine.

I started with red wigglers from the local bait shop, since our soil is too sandy for natural worms.

I have a pile enclosed on 3 sides, that I put used chicken straw, kitchen scraps, rabbit manure, and any garden debri. We don’t have worms naturally in our sandy soil, so I imported red smugglers from the local bait shop. They did ok, even over a snowy winter, but when I started including rabbit manure in the mix, the worm population exploded.

Wood chips (free), worms, fruit/veg scraps.

Using mycorrhizal powders in your garden helps increase soil, by helping to transform dead matter and by diverting nutrients to plants which need it. Which also steadily increases the mycelial network. Essentially, you help stabilize the diversity of the web, whereby allowing the elements of nature to compost more efficiently. Mycorrhizae are everywhere, but adding just a little extra in the garden every year, will jumpstart it into building soil! Of course, you all have already heard this …

My friend in England had her compost barrel in the middle of her garden bed. I decided that’s the way to go. I do insite comoosting as part of my fruit tree guild. No need to turn (too lazy to turn it anyway).

We have the pile kind with pallets on 3 sides, I like how easy it is to get the wheelbarrow up to it. Today I saw our Bee’s on all parts of it, coffee grounds, orange peels, all over, they will get anything in the winter I suppose when there’s not much growing

Gypsum! Throw it all over your lawns, gardens, orchards, berry patches and berms. Also toss out a good dose of Epsom salts.

Vincent Wu

Composting releases CO2.

David Simmons

Lasagna garden

Composting household food waste is preferable to putting it in a landfill or using garbage disposals. However, a concerted effort to buy only what we can consume and to use all edible parts of what we buy, such as peels, stalks, etc. is the best solution to our growing food waste problem.

I was attempting to grow mushrooms, got impatient, and chucked the beginning white fluff of mushroom fungi into my compost to take over. Does that help?

So does flatulence. Composting needs to happen. Cars and factories don’t. The earth can balance some C02 with plants an algae, and some fungus. But don’t blame the overwhelming amount of C02 on nature. It has an equilibrium before we began our habits

Only if there’s food for the fungi.. Mycorrhizal fungi are a specific type which mostly run underground, decomposing waste and dead matter… The type that you grow on logs are saprophytic, and need to consume certain types of food, usually logs or wood chips… So if you put wood chips w your fungi,it may help them.. There’s a method called the quadruple inoculation method, you take inoculated logs, wrap them w inoculated rope, pack them w inoculated wood chips, and sprinkle the spore powder of the same fungi… ( you don’t want competition between species) that’s the only way I see that old logs will begin fruiting in a compost! Just so you know, now that you’re seeing white fluff, the fungi has consumed the whole log and will now begin fruiting…

Jonathan…

Carol

Did anyone mention Rudolf Steiner/Waldorf School’s Biodynamic Gardening?

Composting is a great way to establish a healthy soil that is also a natural pest repellent.

Then you have your worms; vermicomposting

Thanks Got a lot of great info

Benjamin Harrell

This is the same with us only we have very clay-like soil and did not purchase worms, but this mixture seem to naturally attract them (worms). Rabbit manure especially, seems to have made a huge difference in the quality of our compost/soil.

Samantha Claar

i just pile everything “organic” up and run it over with the lawn mower once a month to break it up farther. Seems to be cooking along just fine

Got it @Anna Santos

Amanda Furber

I have Chickens !!

What do they bait crabs with?

Mackerel, sardine, squid. The bait jar also picks up black bottom mud. Pretty rich stuff, but you gotta leach the salt out to make good soil.

Truck loads of Leaf Mold Compost. Plus we compost all our kitchen vegetables right in the compost bin in the garden. We had an awesome variety of vegetables last summer and I can’t wait to do it again this year.

Helen Lamontagne Gardner

my composting takes a shorter route…from the kitchen into animal poop.

I have a very denuded soil on my property, I leave the leaves as they fall to rebuild the poor soil, I also deeply mulch in summer. This yard was raked clean of leaves for at least 16 years. My clay and decomposed subsoil is studded with serpentine., and is in deep shade. It’s kind of sad, it needs way more help.

jacksontherabbit

Doing a mix of different kinds of composting could be time consuming but perhaps doing a mix based on your lifestyle could work.
-Bokashi composts all food waste(including meat, dairy, and bones!) while making Bokashi tea: which has many uses-clears drains, aids in agricultural animal smells, inoculates compost piles with effective microorganisms and helps keep septic systems happy. Bokashi is a quick and rich compost or even animal feed. It can be done indoors and doesn’t stink. Bokashi is great for a novice and can be complementary to any other form of composting. You can scale your compost to your life and space…like pallet gardening or bucket gardens to raised beds or forest pit gardens. It could be used in metro areas in schools, apts or restaurants to do a roof garden or community garden, a pallet garden even shared for bucket gardens. It can greatly reduce the amount of waste going into landfills because any food waste can go into it. It doesn’t off gas and doesn’t give off heat so it doesn’t loose nutrients. It’s done in containers so pests can’t really get into it. It can make large amounts of citrus safe for worm farms. Bokashi is a great place to start.
-Vermiculture-again totally scalable to one’s life. Worm bins, worm tubes, worm farms. Something to do in conjunction with chickens or fish…as they can also be food. Can aid in pallet gardening and larger. You can make the ever handy worm tea. You can have worms in apts to schools…they scale up and down pretty well. They make amazing soil and are another part that helps keep soil alive and could make an income.
-If you rent or own land having 2 large woodchip piles for doing the Jean Pain water heating method which then the piles could be rotated to do sheet mulching or mushroom growing after they breakdown. You could heat your water, your house, your greenhouse, or your aquaponic setup. Mulching could be used over super compact soil as well as holding compost in place and keeping down slugs. New mulch made from pruning helps to build up nutrients in the soil around the trees. You can heat so much for so long with wood WITHOUT burning it and can lower electrical needs which offsets grid dependence.
-With pit composting you could do it in your greenhouse or tunnel. If you have a thermal mass greenhouse you could add even more heat in the winter by having a strawbale pit compost making it possible to grow things year round in cooler climates….grow your starts ahead of time.
-biodigester could also be a great way to use your waste and create natural gas that can be used for cooking and heating and can go hand in hand with having animals and their waste.

It really does come down to the soil, so utilizing as many ways to compost is pretty important. You might have current limitations, start where you can and remember you can always build on what you know. So while doing all you can for the soil, use composting to it’s maxim potential and get as many uses out of the process. We want great soil so we can grow food and give back to the earth and in doing that there are so many great processes to mix and match.

Anonymous

what books on this subject should I get

Shared! TY!

Bérénice Banhart

Des Connor

Mathew Bruton

Kassidy Jalene Gerbrandt

Jean Lalor

Tracee Belzle Dean look.

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