7 Composting Methods that I know of

Have I told you yet that composting would be one of my favourite activities?

Here’s why compost is so awesome for building soil:

that’s what it’s meant to do.

I come from Germany, lovely climate. Bit grey and miserable for a few months but the rainfall, moisture and mild temperatures do wonders for the soil. During our sports lessons in high school we would be sent through the nearby forest for a warm up jog. I still remember the nice cool air in the shade of the big trees and the pleasant feeling underfoot – ground that was hard enough to make running easy (well, as easy as running can be…) but still soft and bouncy enough to be gentle on your joints. Now I live in Meekatharra and get fried by the sun from above and have to tread carefully to not roll my ankles on all those rocks, whilst dodging mulga tree stumps and still look ahead to avoid running into massive spider webs of spiders that would probably bite me with their venomous fangs and then put me in their pouch. Because everything in Australia either kills you or has a pouch.

How the hell did I get from the benefits of compost to some horror story with deadly marsupial-mutant spiders?

That’s right, Germany’s forest. Due to the climate most trees in Germany are deciduous, meaning they shed their leaves over winter. All those leaves (and there’s a LOT!) fall down to the ground and stay there. That happens year after year after year. Nature mixes in some animal poo (of birds, deer, rabbits), some twigs and branches, some shrubbery and ground dwelling plants, some animal carcasses, some rainfall and some sunshine and then sends an army of bacteria, fungi, insects, rodents, worms and probably another few players that munch away on all that stuff. They munch and poop and munch and poop and reproduce and die and get munched on by others and eventually create this wonderful dark, crumbly, sweet and earthy smelling goodness. The goodness that basically consists of microbe poop and chewed-up bodies. Nice. I’m sure there’s a more scientific description of the process out there but this will do me.

Now, humans are clever. We learnt to extract different minerals and elements, mix them together and create a mixture of macro-nutrients that we believe is perfect for our plants (and we have gotten pretty good at this thanks to science!). The problem with this is that despite our best knowledge we don’t yet understand all the roles every bit of macro- and micro-nutrient play within the soil. Quite frankly, nature has been working on this for a few more moons than we have. So instead of trying to invent the perfect recipe of pure elements we could keep it simple by learning from nature and copying her way of doing things. Like: composting.

This doesn’t mean we have to live in a forest somewhere and shake leaves of trees and keep worms as pets and talk to birds and rabbits. We can still use our amazing human brain and apply nature’s principles in some other way, so that it fits in better with our lifestyle. Luckily I don’t have to re-invent the wheel here as there are many many many people out there who have figured this out before me. Here’s a few different ways of making compost and building healthy soil:

Compost Heap

Chuck it all on a pile and let it do it’s thing.

Pro:

  • easy
  • you don’t need to buy any (building) materials

Con:

  • if you have chickens or a dog or other animals they’ll get in it and spread it around
  • could get smelly if you get it wrong and put something foul on there
  • needs manual turning if you want fast (hot) compost results
  • limited to garden waste and fruit & veggie scraps. Meat etc would attract vermin.

Compost Bin

Like a compost pile but more contained.

Pro:

  • easy
  • looks neat

Con:

  • limited capacity
  • need to buy a bin or get the materials to build one
  • can’t do meat etc as it would attract vermin

Compost Tumbler

Chuck it all in a tumbling container.

Pro:

  • easy
  • good fun tumbling it around
  • fast compost

Con:

  • needs tumbling
  • need to buy a tumbler or get materials to build one
  • not connected to soil therefore earth worms can’t get in

Bokashi Bucket

Chuck it all in a bucket.

Pro:

  • you really can chuck it “all” in – meat, dairy, cooked meals.
  • gives you by-product liquid fertiliser
  • fast compost

Con:

  • usually small capacity
  • need to buy a bucket or get materials to build one
  • can get a bit smelly if not done right (but bucket is sealed so no problem until you open the bucket :))
  • need to buy (or make) Bokashi micro-organism mixture

Worm Farm

Chuck it all in your worm farm container.

Pro:

  • gives you by-product liquid fertiliser
  • fast composting
  • you will have lots of wormy friends

Con:

  • usually limited capacity
  • need to buy a worm farm or get materials to build one
  • need to get some worms to start with
  • can’t go away for long times without someone feeding them and keeping them moist etc

Chickens

Chuck it all in your chook run.

Pro:

  • they convert it all into eggs!
  • reduced feed cost
  • they scratch it all in the ground and mix it with soil/grass clippings etc
  • they’re good fun and can be wonderful pets
  • if you don’t want pets but prefer chicken soup that’s fine too

Con:

  • can be a bit picky (they don’t eat everything you give them)
  • need to look after chickens every day (can’t go away for long times without someone looking after them)
  • they cost money (for feed, shelter, water etc)

Chop and Drop

Chuck it straight on the ground wherever you are.

Pro:

  • probably the easiest of all composting methods
  • as natural as composting can get
  • feeds the ground right there underneath the plant
  • good for growing methods like food forests

Con:

  • slower composting (not like a big hot heap for example)
  • you end up with dropped material everywhere

As you can see there are a lot of different methods, all with their advantages and disadvantages. There are more composting methods out there, too. Cockroach Composting anyone? We humans have been doing this for a while now and have  come up with so many different ways that work well for all our different climates and needs.

I find a mix of different methods work best. Just the Bokashi compost would be too small and wouldn’t be able to accommodate all my garden green waste. Just the compost bin doesn’t work because I can’t put meat or dairy scraps in it. Just the chickens doing my composting wouldn’t work because they can’t eat everything and are just not interested in sticks or orange peel. I’m currently establishing a nice workflow with all our different composts using all our different materials (kitchen scraps, chicken poo, lawn clippings, dog poo, tree leaves, veggie patch waste, weeds etc). It’s one of my favourite activities. I know, weird. But wonderful 🙂

I love it so much that just last weekend I actually built my first compost bin out of pallets. It’s a really (as in really) simple design but it does the trick! I’m very proud of it and have gone to check it at least three times this last week to see if it’s composted yet. Yeah right. It’s like going for a jog, jumping on the scales and expecting to have lost a couple of kilos. Good things take time, Svenja! But I’m so excited!!

My new compost bin built out of three pallets

My new compost bin built out of three pallets

Layered with grass clippings and dry weeds and shrubs

Layered with grass clippings and dry weeds and shrubs

My Bokashi composting buckets

My Bokashi composting buckets

Here’s a collection of different links and resources for you. There’s so much information and so many ideas out there! I love it! You might too!

Links & Resources

Do you know of other great composting resources? Have an awesome compost set up at home? Post your comments below! 🙂

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