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Compost Happens (Part 2)

BioBag Employee Sharpens The Saw

This is the second part of the Compost Happens – BioBag Employee Sharpens The Saw. For those of you that missed part one, you can read it on our blog. I appreciated all the comments and hope someone learned a thing or two about Aerobic and Anaerobic composting, the bacteria involved in the process and the larger organisms that inhabit the piles. Even some BioBag employee’s saws were a little sharper from proofing and reading the previous blog entry.
compost man
With that all said, let’s jump into the continuation of Compost Happens. We will go over Compost Terminology, Benefits of Composting and What To Compost and What Not to Compost.

Composting Benefits

  • Improves soil condition and structure
  • Increases the soil’s ability to hold water
  • Support leaving organisms
  • Helps dissolves mineral forms of nutrients
  • Buffers soil from chemical imbalances
  • May provide biological control of certain pests
  • Helps return organic materials to the soil and keep them out of landfills and waterways

Wow! Compost is black gold!

Compost Terminology

Here are some simple composting terms:
  • Composting: Controlled decomposition of organic materials
  • Compost: Partially decomposed organic matter
  • Humus: Completely decomposed organic matter
  • Mulch: Organic or inorganic spread on soil surface
  • Browns or the Carbon component in the composting process: Leaves, sawdust, wood chips
  • Greens or the Nitrogen component in the composting process: Manure, food waste, spent flowers, nitrogen fertilizers, grass clippings

The Ideal Mixture of brown to green when composting is a ratio of 30:1 (30 brown : 1 green)

Compost what?

Now, depending on what method of composting you participate in will determine the material input that can be composted. Of course through industrial composting where machinery, technology, manpower and time are readily available, many more things can be composted including dog waste, meat and dairy products. These three items are not normally recommended for home composting.

This is a sample of items that should be A-OK for your home composting.

  • Fruit and vegetables left overs (stalks, seeds, peels, skins)
  • Breads, grains, rice, flour, cereal, pasta
  • Yard trimmings, wood chips, plants, flowers, leaves, straw, hay
  • Natural fibers (cotton, wool, linen)
  • Hair (human and animal)
  • Feathers
  • Herbivore manure
  • Coffee grounds and filters as well as tea leaves and bags (no staples)
  • Newsprint, paper, cardboard, paper plates, cups and napkins
  • Eggshells
Looks like we will be continuing to at least a Part 3. I haven’t even scratched the surface of HOW to actually compost. Part 1, Part 2 and future “Parts” will all be archived on our blog!
 

If you would like to take a composting class, check out your local county website. My class was put on for FREE by the Florida Cooperative Extensive Service of the University of Florida. There are classes just like this one across the U.S

Schwag from Composting Class

Free Composting and Irrigation stuff I got from the class

Scrap collection bucket, GeoBin composting system, Compost thermometer, vegetable garden watering system, rain gauge & water hose timer.
 

Compost Happens (Part 1)

BioBag Employee Sharpens The Saw

Stephen R Covey published his “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” in the late 1980’s. The 7th and maybe the most important habit is to “Sharpen the Saw”. Sharpening the Saw means preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have–you.  Luckily for me, I work at a company that supports and promotes its employees taking the time to enhance themselves personally and professionally.
compost
To expand my knowledge as well as reconnect with nature, I took a class last week on Composting. I would consider my knowledge of composting intermediate from working here at BioBag, but I could use a little sharpening. I’d like to share with you some tips, that I either newly learned or that were refreshers, from the class. We went over a lot of information that day so I think it best to break it up into parts. This is Part 1.

Composting:

  • Anaerobic (without oxygen): decomposition that is often called fermentation or putrefaction. It is usually accompanied by the release of methane or the foul odor of hydrogen sulfide (rotten egg smell). Anaerobic decomposition occurs slowly and little heat is generated.
  • Aerobic (with oxygen): a naturally occurring process in nature where organic waste is converted into humus. There is little to no smell. The process creates lots of energy in the form of heat. The heat is an advantage as it destroys pathogens and parasites.
  • The cast of characters that aid in composting are: bacteria, fungi, millipedes, earthworms and other living inhabitants.

There are 3 types of bacteria:

  • Psychrophilic (low temperature bacteria)
  • Mesophilic (40 – 110 degrees F) they do most of the work in the compost piles
  • Thermophilic (104 – 200 degrees F)
All bacteria need nitrogen and carbon to survive and thrive. Nitrogen provides the microbes with the raw element to multiply. Carbon is the energy source. Bacteria get a complete meal when the carbon to nitrogen ration is 30:1.

Moisture content of 40% – 60% is ideal for bacteria. If it is less than 40%, the bacteria slow down and go dormant. If the moisture content is 60%+, it is too wet which means the pile looses too much air and anaerobic conditions set in.

Turning the pile brings fresh air to the microbes in which their numbers multiply quickly. More microbes = Faster decomposition = Quicker compost

As the pile cools or in the later stages of decomposition, other larger organisms settle in.

  • Fungi are major decomposers in the compost pile however, not as efficient as bacteria
  • Nematodes or roundworms
  • Fermentation mites
  • Springtails
  • Wolf Spiders
  • Centipedes
  • Sow bugs
  • Ground beetles
  • Earthworms

A slight detour. One cool factoid about Grass Clippings:

Grass clippings can be directly recycled by letting them fall back in the lawn as you mow. Clippings are 90% water and break down quickly, releasing nutrients equivalent to one or two fertilizations a year.

Like I said, this only covered a portion of what was presented in the class. Be on the look out for Part 2 next month with a possible Part 3.

If you would like to take a composting class, check out your local county website. My class was put on for FREE by the Florida Cooperative Extensive Service of the University of Florida. There are classes just like this one across the U.S. Take some time for you, our earth and Sharpen that Composting Saw! (Plus you might get a lot of cool composting schwag like I did. I plan to start my own composting pile soon. See photo below.)

Schwag from Composting Class

Free Composting and Irrigation stuff I got from the class

Scrap collection bucket, GeoBin composting system, Compost thermometer, vegetable garden watering system, rain gauge & water hose timer.