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Additional Composting Information

  • Composting is a way for us to become a part of the soil building process. Since we manage it the process is intensified.
  • When we garden we disrupt the pattern of returning organic matter to the soil. Composting completes the cycle.
  • Composting also makes the handling of such things as manure and refuse easier to handle. This is because the process (when done correctly – aerobically with plenty of nitrogen) is intensified by concentrating decomposition. The heat created cooks the smell out of manure and garbage.
  • Also soil microorganisms responsible for decomposition temporarily bind up nutrients essential to plants.
  • “Finished compost” is still only partially decayed organic matter but it is rich in nitrogen and other elements that have been released. It contains humus and provides the materials necessary to improve soil structure.
  • Two types of bacteria that are responsible for initial decomposition of organic matter. Anaerobic bacteria breakdown organic matter without air and produce foul smelling byproducts at certain stages of decomposition. (Advantage is that it preserves more of the nutrients) Aerobic bacteria break down organic matter using oxygen from air and do not produce foul smelling byproducts. (but some nutrients are lost in the process).
  • Microorganisms use nutrients of the organic matter as a part of the process – Nitrogen Phosphorus and potassium are used but often Nitrogen is limiting. This slows the decomposition process down.
  • It is the relationship between nitrogen and carbon (building block of all organic matter – sugars, starches cell walls e.g. cellulose) that determines how quickly a mixture of organic matter will decompose and how hot the temperature of decomposition will get. Different bacteria work best at different temperatures. The most efficient work at high temperatures between 120 degrees F.
  • Sawdust and leaves (brown material)is at the one end of the spectrum – low Nitrogen high carbon – decomposes slowly but result is high in humus. Lawn clippings (green material) contains higher nitrogen and lower carbon – decomposes rapidly but result is lower in humus .