sábado, 19 de octubre de 2013

Compost: Your Elaboration

1. What is compost?

Compost exists since there is life on Earth, anything live to die if left in the ground will rot in aerobic way (with the presence of oxygen). More effective agents of decomposition are bacteria and other microorganisms. Already at a macroscopic level are the worms of the Earth, ants, snails, slugs, millipedes, Woodlice, etc. who consume and degrade organic matter.

The compost is used as fertilizer for the soil in agriculture and gardening; and helping to control the erosion, as coatings and recovery of soils in landscaping.

Composting is an activity that requires some effort when it comes to emptying our composter, but it is gratifying seeing your garden’s soil improvement. It is an ecological activity because you recycle part of the waste produced in our homes. Furthermore, you make the most of your wastes possibilities, that otherwise would go to less sustainable wastelandfills, incinerators, etc., means little sustainable waste valorisation.

Some facts:

An everyday house waste contains 40% of organic matter, which can be recycled and returned to the Earth in humus form for plants and crops.

30 compost kilograms are obtained every 100 kg of organic waste.

2. What do I need to make compost?

To make compost you can use garden vegetable and home waste instead of throwing them in the trash. Compost is an organic fertilizer that will serve to improve the soil in the garden and to feed your plants.

The most basic form is to make a waste pile in a corner of the garden, or use a drawer of wooden slats. But the best is to buy a prefabricated composter. There are of different materials (plastic, resin, thermal, etc.) and different sizes.

The composters have ventilation and openings to make the decomposition work. They must not be hermetically closed.

Materials to produce our composter:

- Treated wood resistant to moisture and bacteria.
- Brick.
- Concrete blocks.
- Precast plastic composters
- Metallic drums or drilled plastics.
- Wire cages.

When it comes to choosing or measuring our composter capacity, it is convenient to choose one larger than that we consider we would need, because it is likely that you accumulate more waste than what we think and a second composter could be necessary.

It is also highly recommendable to have a bio-shredding machine for the thick branches that cannot be cut with scissors and to chop the remaining vegetables, and thus accelerate its decomposition. Also, composting stimulators are sold in the garden centers, to help speed up the composting process.

3 Where do I place the composter?

Home composter can be in direct contact with the ground or it can be found based in paved areas or terraces.

If the composter is in direct contact with the ground, it will be very positive for the composting process, since it will facilitate the entering of soil fauna in the compost to process and drain it.

If we do not have a ground contact composter, we will place the composter on a footing. In these cases, the composter has in the basis a liquids collection system which allows you to collect the leachate.

It is better to place it in a not very visible place because they are not decorative elements. The best place is near the vegetable garden. Like this, you won't need to load much distance when you empty the composters.

It is better to locate in the shadow than in the sun, because if not, you should water it frequently to maintain the humidity. The ideal place would be under a deciduous tree or on a terrace, beside some decorative plants providing the composter with enough shadow.

4. What can you use?

The main ingredients of a good compost can be a mixture of "green" and "brown" waste. The "greens" are remains containing sap and "brown" are harder materials, such as old plants or household waste.

Out of the garden:

Leaves, grass, vegetables, straw used as mulch, pruned branches (if you grind them much better), sawdust, etc.

Ashes, coffee grounds or tea leaves, infusions with paper included, egg shells, fruits, vegetables, colorless newspaper, hair (uncolored), etc.

Adding worms is equally good.

Out of the home:

You can use only annual weeds and without seeds, because perennials with stolons (e.g. grass), bulbils or rhizomes, can maintain its viability and sprout.

5. What you should not use.

- The remains of greasy food, meat, bones, fish, dairy and eggs should not be used for composting because they tend to attract insects and other unwanted animals and can also produce bad smells.

- Any non biodegradable or inorganic material, such as: plastic, glass, etc.

- The dairy products can add undesirable bacteria.

- Diseased plants and fruits or large amount of rotten vegetables. They produce unpleasant odours and rot.

- The domestic animals’ and people’s droppings carry pathogens.

- Treated wood’s or chipboard’s ash and sawdust. Glue and varnish. They is very toxic.

- Citrus peels and conifers pruning, because they lengthen the composting process and can cause acid compost.

6. How does the composting process works?

Those wastes we have talked about above will be attacked by microorganisms (bacteria and fungi), breaking down and fermenting the wastes, and transforming them into other material with different characteristics to the original and very beneficial for the soil and the plants.

In order to receive air from the bottom, we begin with an underlayer with thicker branches and should not be longer than 30 cm. If you have yet decomposed organic material, use it to cover the underlayer. On top of this, vegetation traces and all kind of organic material wastes are added. When this layer measure around 20-30 cm, is covered with a thin layer of manure or some substance rich in nitrogen (manure, fish meal). On top of all this add another layer of organic matter, then another layer of nitrogenous substance, and so on, until filling the composter.

This decomposition process is developed in several steps:

1st. In the first 2-3 weeks the bacteria are acting with intensity increasing the heap temperature during a short period of time, and must reach 60-70 ° C to kill the germs and the majority of seeds. An external sign is the compost’s heap subsidence or settlement.

2nd. 2-3 months later the first State of maturity has been reached: the fresh compost. Greyish, its use as padding is appropriate in order to protect the soil from erosion, frost, dryings and from pest and weed proliferation.

3rd. After 4-5 months more from obtaining the fresh compost, our compost should already be ripe, dark, with forest land smell. You should have the proper humidity if, when you tight a handful of compost in our hand, you notice humidity, and it is not leaking liquid.

The only care needed will consist in controlling that the fermentation is not rotting. From time to time, take a handful of compost and tight it. If it drains liquid, it is in danger of rotting. Include dry material and give again shape to the heap. If it collapses, is because it is very dry and you should wet. Mix the compost once a month to aerate it.

Lo más importante es una buena mezcla de los materiales.

7. How long does it take to obtain good compost?

It will be ready in about 3 months during the spring-summer and in winter it will take even 6 months.

To see if it is ready to use, take a handful of compost. It should be brown or blackish color, similar to the mulch, with the forest odour and be cold due to microbial activity lack.

Nothing deposited a few months ago will be recognized, except the pieces of branches, which need to be separated with the sieve or the hands and introduce again to the composter to continue its process and serve as a structuring.

If you don't use the compost right away, you can save it in bags or sacks hermetically closed. If while tightening leaks liquid, do not store it in bags, since it could rot.

Gotten compost is applied to the ground once a year. In our case, we put it into the vegetable garden in early spring, before planting. You can leave it on the surface (5 cm.) as padding or mixing it with the land.

8. Is it necessary to irrigate or add any product to the composter?

You would not need to add water to the composter if the necessary materials are added to the compost and dry or wet material is added when needed. If at some point during the summer, the composter mix gets very dry, it is convenient to irrigate it.

If there is not enough catering waste (process activators), we can always use grained products based on preparations of microorganisms and organic substance. These products act on the vegetable waste and other biodegradable materials, accelerating its decomposition.

9. Problems in the compost production.

If you notice an ammonia smell, it means that there is too much nitrogen (green material) not mixed with carbon (Brown). The solution is to mix it with dry material (for example, dry leaves) and flip.

If it smells to rotten, it means that there is too much moisture and low oxygen. The solution is to mix the compost with dry material and turn around.

If you see that the composter is full of cold and dry material, it means that there ir no moisture. Therefore, the solution will be to add green catering wastes and mix it with the compost.

Fruit flies are not a problem, but if you do not want them or you want to decrease the flies amount, you must slightly hide the catering wastes.

If the mixture is too acid and does not evolve, you can incorporate lime.

Adding soil at the beginning to the composter will assist in the process, since this soil will provide fungi, bacteria and other beneficial microorganisms, making the composting process start and speeding it up. However, it is not necessary and the process can start perfectly without the soil. Furthermore, this soil occupies quite volume and it will weigh a lot when you have to harvest the compost.

Vermiculture, Lombriculture

The Vermiculture technique is based on the use of some earthworms’ species to transform organic waste into vermicompost, lombricompost, or earthworms’ humus. During the process, earthworms use not only microorganisms growing in waste for their nutrition, but they also contribute to the microbial activity in the produced humus.

This humus is produced from the organic materials digestion by the earthworms, and improves the physical properties of the soil, such as permeability and moisture retention.

It is a biotechnology based on the earthworms’ breeding for the humus production from an organic substrate.

It is a natural decomposition process, similar to composting, in which the organic material, it is not only attacked by microorganisms in the natural environment, but also by the complex digestive system of the earthworms.

The lombricompost can be used in horticultural, aromatic, floral, ornamental trees, shrubs, etc.

Urban composter

One option to recycle organic waste is to transform domestic kitchen and garden waste into a better fertilizer. In urban contexts, it is a frequently used measure because it seeks the environment preservation by promoting recycling.

In our kitchen corner, balcony or terrace we will be transforming our organic waste into high quality fertilizer through worms.

The urban composters consist on a series of consecutive trays, containing, from bottom to up, from mature compost to our newly added catering waste.

It is necessary to acquire red earthworms, which will be climbing up the trays once they have transform to compost all the waste. Earthworms do not escape from the composter since it is hermetically closed, and they are able to reproduce themselves until reaching the earthworms optimal number process all the waste that we give them.

We will obtain earthworms humus, the best natural fertilizer for our plants, our garden, etc.

We will add only soft and sliced organic materials to make easier the earthworms digestion, and we will have to watch that the temperature is around 18 - 20 ° C, and the humidity around 70-80%.

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