10 golden rules for successful composting

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10 Golden Rules for Composting

Rule 1: use waste from different sources well mixed together

Mixing these wastes regularly will help the process to obtain a better transformation into compost. When starting a compost, the trick is to bring a base of mature compost that will serve as leaven.  

Rule 2: Shred all woody waste before incorporating it into the compost

Remember to shred your tree and shrub branches and break up the plant stems with clippers or by hand. This makes it easier for organisms to attack the compost, improves the mixing of your compost and accelerates the composting process.  

Rule 3: aerate the compost pile regularly

The first turning of your compost should take place between 2 and 4 weeks after the creation of the pile. This operation prevents the temperature from dropping and favours the activity of thermophilic bacteria and brings them the oxygen they need to work. It should be repeated every 3 to 4 weeks. 

Finally, aeration allows you to obtain a homogeneous mixture that favours close contact between the different wastes with complementary roles in the transformation into compost. 

To promote aeration of the compost, the trick is to create a chimney using a perforated PVC tube placed vertically in the centre of the pile.  

10 golden rules for successful composting

Rule 4: Have the right level of humidity

A compost pile that is too dry will cause bacteria to disappear or become inactive in the process. Only the fungi will be active. This results in the appearance of white mycelial filaments. 

A compost that is too wet reduces the amount of oxygen and causes rotting and the emission of a strong ammonia smell. Ideally, when you hold the maturing compost in your hand, no water should flow out, but you should feel the moisture.   

If your compost is too wet, add dry waste rich in carbon C. 

Rule 5: enrich and maintain your compost

Here are the different solutions: 

– Biological activators, rich in nutrients and micro-organisms. 

– Calcareous or magnesian amendment (dolomite) which is a real contribution in trace elements and has the virtue of neutralising possible bad smells.  

– Clay which favours the formation of the clay-humus complex for sandy soils. 

– Nettle or comfrey manure diluted at 10% if your waste is rich in carbon and dry. 

– Wood ashes which are rich in phosphorus and potassium.  

– Organic nitrogen of animal origin (blood, roasted or ground horn) in order to restart the fermentation and raise the temperature and thus kill parasites and phytopathogenic fungi as well as weed seeds. 

Rule 6: if necessary, provide a pre-composting pile

In case of a large amount of waste, provide an area for storage, shredding and mixing. 

Cover the central part of the pile with straw, soil or a porous tarp. This will allow air and water to pass through. Remove when turning the pile. 

The larger the pile, the better the temperature rise and therefore the speed of composting and destruction of disease germs.  

Rule 7: sieve the compost

Not all the waste will be completely transformed during the first compost. It will be enough to sift it and reincorporate it in the next compost pile. 

Rule 8: How do you know when compost is mature?

The transformation of compost takes between 5 and 12 months, depending on the period and the materials to be composted. The initial pile will have shrunk by about two-thirds and will be concentrated in mineral nutrients. 

Clues to know if your compost is ripe: 

-The compost remains at room temperature and therefore no longer rises in temperature.  

-Small red worms are becoming more and more numerous and will be replaced by earthworms once the compost is completely ripe. 

-It is no longer possible to recognize the origin of the different materials and initial waste; they have become crumbly, dark brown in color, with a lumpy consistency and a pleasant smell of forest soil, of humus. 

10 golden rules for successful composting

Rule 9: How is the compost used?

Several possible uses: 

-Bedding plants and flowerbeds: spread in large handfuls at the base then incorporate superficially by scratching. 

-Potted plants: replace the surface substrate with your compost. 

-Shrubs, fruit trees, perennials, rose bushes: spread as a mulch  

– Vegetables : spread in big handfuls at the foot then incorporate superficially by scratching or incorporate into the soil before planting. 

– Poor soils: spread the compost at a rate of 10 to 20 litres per m² and incorporate it into the soil.  

– Turf: scarify the soil and then spread the compost on the turf. 

Rule 10: the right tools and equipment 

– Fork to turn and aerate 

– One or two silos  

– Tarp with eyelets  

– Layer thermometer 

– Wheelbarrow 

– Shredder 

– Perforated PVC pipe to serve as a chimney in the centre of the pile 

– Watering can 

– Container to collect kitchen waste 

– Sieve 

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