Composting is a natural process. That is how God made everything. It will eventually decompose and return to the earth. So why do I have so much trouble composting? It’s not that I can’t compost because like I said natural materials just do that automatically, it’s that I am not composting in a timely manner.
Everyone from Oprah to any home and garden magazine has talked about composting benefits and basics. I’m not going to go into what to and not to compost to get a list of that go to the University of Illinois extension website (Im sure there are many others). They will get into carbon and nitrogen ratios which is great, but sometimes you just want to throw stuff in. Instead I would like to cover the problems I have and probably others also have with compost piles.
A lot of people have an aerobic pile. You build a structure that holds your material, you throw stuff in and it will compost. That is what I was trying to do. Except I was not managing it correctly so my pile was basically anaerobic. The stuff at the bottom was composting very slowly but that was about it.
My main problems with my compost pile.
I take compost out of my pile only once a year.
My pile is never hot or warm.
Even though we live in Wisconsin, and compost piles don’t do much composting in the winter months, I should still get more than one chance to pull compost out of my pile. Well, since I have done some more compost research, more than just the description of what to put into a pile, I actually had to go to the library. I think I’ve come up with some answers.
Here are a few mistakes I was making
- I was not adding water. I thought “hey it rains, that should be enough”
- I was not chopping my materials up.
- I was not adding a bacteria source
I believe an aerobic pile will compost quickly but there is a certain amount of management that needs to be done. Keeping your pile damp is important. Taking a hose out to the pile once a week should solve this. Chopping materials will speed up the composting process. To do this, take your pile of leaves and run over them with the lawn mower shooting them into a building so you can then pick them up. You can also do this with your fall garden cleanup material. If you can get fresh manure do that and throw it in your pile. Already composted manure can go right out to the garden to help your soil. Fresh manure supplies the bacteria needed to get that compost pile working.
With all that being said, I think I am going to try my hand at anaerobic composting. I still have my aerobic pile, but I’m going to get another pile going just to see if I like this better. I think there will be a lot less work to get compost. So this is what I did.
First, I moved most of my materials onto the Gator and to a different location.
I am killing two birds with one stone because I am putting the pile where my herb garden is going to be. I am composting and killing the grass underneath getting it ready to become an herb garden.
Then I added fresh manure and straw with manure in it. The animal that I have gotten for manure purposes is the alpaca. Alpacas are so easy to care for, they are clean, the kids love them and they are a ruminate animal like a cow so their manure is not full of seeds. I have 3 non breeding males. Oh my gosh I forgot the best part, they poop in the same spot so it’s easy to pick up manure.
I mixed everything together and placed a black tarp over the pile and secured it with field stone. Before I put the tarp on I threw a 5 gallon bucket of water on the whole pile. I will continue to add water that way once a week.
So this is my anaerobic compost pile! I have heard that this might stink, but unless its absolutely putrid It won’t matter too much. It doesn’t look real nice, but it’s February in Wisconsin so nothing looks real nice. I will update on the pile, but my hope is that I will have some nice compost by May. Please feel free to share any compost tips.