Anaerobic composting or composting without the presence of oxygen has been practiced for centuries. Records indicate that the Chinese are the oldest known civilization to practice this form of composting to fertilize their rice paddies.
In more technical terms, anaerobic composting is composting organic materials, using living anaerobic organisms such as bacteria in an environment that has no oxygen present. This is the same process you will find occurring in nature as peat bogs and marshes.
Unless you happen to have access to a large field of water you are going to have to find another way to create your anaerobic compost pile. While most composting experts will talk about not letting your compost piles get too wet or they will rot, anaerobic composting requires approximately 70% moisture levels in order for it to work properly.
The Standard Compost Pile
You can turn your current compost pile into an anaerobic one quite simply and effectively by adding plenty of water. Yes I know we have spent hours telling you how important it is to maintain moderate to low moisture levels, but with this type of composting you need to remove the oxygen from your compost pile. The water will drive out the oxygen and keep it out if you keep the water level high enough. By covering the pile to help keep in the moisture, you will end up with a slimy mess, which indicates that it is working properly. You should however, be prepared for a very odoriferous compost pile. This is really more suitable to households with larger tracts of land where the aforementioned odoriferous pile can be placed away from the house or the neighbors.
The Submerged Pile
This method of creating anaerobic compost is very similar to that which is has been in use by the Chinese for centuries and involves keeping your compost under water. For this you will need a large tank, plastic pool or tank that is big enough to hold your compost and then be filled with water. As your compost pile decomposes the odors are trapped in the water. While slightly more involved than a standard anaerobic compost pile, your neighbors will certainly appreciate it.
The Big Bag Theory
You have probably seen this method in use in the local farmers’ fields, this would be the long white bags that lay in the fields over the winter. This version is a little simpler and a lot smaller. You can use a large heavy duty plastic garbage bag. You first layer the bottom of the bag with soil or cured compost, then add your compost and add enough water to make everything moist. Seal the bag so that no air can get in and roll it to get things started and then leave it alone for 6-8 weeks.
No Hole in My Bucket
Off all the different forms of anaerobic composting, the bucket method is perhaps the easiest and least offensive. This is a long term project and will take up to a year to create the compost you are looking for. You simple cut the bottom from a five gallon bucket and plant it a few inches into the ground. You then fill it with your scraps and organic waste, place the lid on it and forget it for a year. Do not open until the year has passed or you will let in more oxygen and ruin the process. As you can see a fair amount of patience is required for this method. At the end of the year you will have perfectly usable humus. All of these forms of anaerobic composting work well, some will produce more compost than others, while at the same time creating a rather smelly situation.
It is an anaerobic form of composting using a bucket but easier to manage than the hole in the ground method and with much faster results.