What is Composting in Place?
Composting is an organic process in which microorganisms decompose organic materials like leaves and grass clippings into nutrient-rich soil enhancers that can be used by individuals for gardens and farms alike.
Studies conducted to date show that compost incorporation reduces soil bulk density while simultaneously increasing infiltration and saturated hydraulic conductivity, relative to control soil. More research needs to be conducted in order to ascertain how long this benefit lasts.
How to compost in the ground
Composting in place is an eco-friendly solution for recycling food scraps, yard trimmings and other organic matter into a valuable soil amendment that reduces commercial fertilizers and pesticide use, improves plant health and saves landfill space by decreasing waste volume that ends up in landfills or trash incinerators that emit powerful greenhouse gasses.
Assemble a pile of composting material on the ground or buy an outdoor-rated bin for outdoor use, including simple piles or bins with built-in aeration holes and lids, for outdoor use. There are numerous designs to choose from ranging from basic piles to those featuring built-in aeration holes and lids; any choice should be placed in a dry and shady location away from animals that might stray near it. With either option you choose, find an area free from animals who might stray near it; when starting with ground-based compost piles it should be placed on level areas covered with four to six inches of bulky browns such as twigs and wood chips so as to absorb excess liquids while raising its height for proper drainage and aeration purposes; add fresh layers every two weeks of greens/browns material so as to balance carbon/nitrogen ratio within your pile.
Once the pile is ready to be turned, it should have a crumbly texture and smell of rich earth. If it emits an ammonia-based or sulfurous scent, however, then a new start must be undertaken.
Some gardeners opt for trench composting as an approach, wherein a deep trench is dug and filled with layers of organic materials alternating browns and greens to provide continuous food sources to shrubs and trees roots. This method has proven especially helpful around shrubs and trees, providing constant nutrients.
Ground-based piles may become anaerobic over time, slowing the decomposition process significantly. When this happens, water or carbon-heavy browns should be added. Moisture retention is also key to creating successful compost piles; when squeezed gently they should feel moist like sponge. Some gardeners also sprinkle nitrogen fertilizer over top to quickly jump-start decomposition.
Benefits of composting in the ground
Composting can save valuable landfill space that would otherwise be filled by garbage, as well as reduce air pollution and the need to transport and burn kitchen scraps and yard trimmings. Furthermore, composting in place returns nutrients back into the environment that had been depleted from soil through commercial fertilizers, offering an economical alternative.
Organic material produced through composting enhances soil structure, water retention and rainfall retention capabilities, helping reduce irrigation use while potentially lowering utility bills. Compost also adds essential micro-nutrients which may otherwise be scarcely present.
Compost is also great for improving soil health as it fosters beneficial fungi and earthworms that improve soil workability, improving aeration and increasing water-holding capacity. Fungi break down complex organic materials to release nitrogen, phosphorus and other essential minerals for plant use; earthworms make the soil manageable while improving aeration capacity and water holding capacities.
As you add compost to the soil, it breaks apart tightly bound particles and forms channels between them, allowing water and air to easily penetrate it more freely – making clay soils less dense while sandy ones more absorbent. Furthermore, increasing organic matter by five percent improves its ability to retain moisture and lower runoff rates.
Compost is an invaluable opportunity to educate children about environmental science, agriculture, chemistry and more. Students gain valuable skills such as observation and participation while developing an appreciation of carbon cycling in our global ecosystem.
Start a backyard compost pile by collecting both brown (known as “browns”) and green material (greens). Brown materials could include straw, hay, wood chips and shredded paper while green materials include grass clippings, weeds, leaves, fruit/veggie scraps and manure; the carbon/nitrogen ratio should be roughly 30:1. Put this mix in an enclosed bin or container covered with a lid to maintain moisture for at least a year to produce finished compost.
Tips for composting in the ground
Composting can be an efficient and affordable way to reduce food scraps, yard waste and other materials that would otherwise end up in landfills or incinerators. Not only is the process affordable; its by-product is high quality soil amendment which can improve container and garden bed texture, conserve water use and increase plant health. Keep these tips in mind for successful composting in place:
To create a compost pile, clear an area in your yard or garden and expose bare soil. Lay down a base layer of straw or twigs before layering brown and green materials such as leaves. Include some nitrogen-rich fertilizer in the first layer to jumpstart decomposition; water the pile or bin periodically – but make sure it remains air-circulating; too much moisture can prevent air circulation while dampness keeps microorganisms alive, which speeds up decomposition process.
An ideal ratio for carbon to nitrogen ratio in compost should be two to three parts browns to one part greens. Brown materials such as dry leaves, paper and cardboard waste, twigs and branches as well as untreated sawdust (untreated sawdust may also count as brown materials). Aim to have approximately three inches of carbon-heavy materials per four inches of green materials in your pile.
Avoid adding diseased plants, pet droppings (other than chook manure), cooking grease and fat, weeds with seeds, glossy paper and treated wood to your compost as these items produce unpleasant odors as well as attract flies, rodents and other pests to the environment. For larger amounts of this material contact a waste management service in your area for guidance regarding disposal options.
While your compost pile or bin is active, turn it regularly with a spade or garden fork in order to accelerate its development and aid with aeration and keeping materials moist. Doing this also ensures a quicker decomposition process overall.
Home and garden centers commonly offer products marketed as compost accelerators or activators to speed up the composting process, but this isn’t necessary to produce successful compost. An equal blend of green and brown materials, adequate moisture levels and frequent turning are key to successful composting.
Advantages of composting in the ground
Composting is an organic process that transforms organic material such as leaves, grass clippings and kitchen scraps into an invaluable humus-rich soil product that provides stability to soil structure. Compost helps increase water holding capacity in heavy soils while improving drainage in sandy ones for improved plant nutrition absorption and reduced erosion during storms by keeping topsoil intact.
Composting provides an environmentally-friendly alternative to burning that does not release air pollution and adversely impact respiratory health, making the composting process a healthier means of recycling organic waste. By returning organic materials back into the soil and feeding its vitality instead of chemical fertilizers – thus saving cost, emissions, and pesticide usage by decreasing chemical dependency.
Compost contains beneficial microorganisms that enrich soil with organic matter and essential nutrients, while simultaneously encouraging plant growth by suppressing unwanted plants such as weeds. Furthermore, compost’s beneficial bacteria also help the soil absorb and retain moisture more easily.
Compost can improve soil’s ability to retain rainfall. Instead of running off rapidly onto its surface, as would happen without compost added, water swells on top and travels through layers of compost, sand and rock to local springs, ponds and lakes.
Filtered and cooled water is then used to filter and cool algae blooms while also eliminating harmful pollutants that have leached from crop fields. Increased soil water holding capacity also enables farmers to grow crops without resorting to irrigation systems – saving both energy and water costs in the process.
Addition of compost alone won’t guarantee optimal results; proper maintenance of a household compost pile requires providing it with adequate air and moisture sources – this means layering it properly, providing enough “browns” (leaves or organic material), turning regularly and turning out any clumps that form. Achieve optimal compost results requires creating something like a sponge for moisture levels that has been squeezed dry!