Composting your kitchen and household waste can be a richly rewarding pastime, and the results can give you the best and most prolific garden you have ever had. To get the most benefit out of composting, it is essential to understand the process as well as the different composting methods to accomplish the goal of usable compost.
Deciding Which Method to Use
In order to get started with composting, you will need to decide which of the different composting methods will work best for you and your situation. There are two basic methods known as the Hot method and the Cold method, with variations of each technique in popular use today.
Cold/Slow Composting Methods for the Backyard Gardener
If you are not in any particular hurry for your compost, and will not be adding green items containing weed seeds to your developing compost, then the cold or slow method may work best for you. Cold compost can be made in a bin where kitchen scraps are layered with organic materials such as leaves, sand, or soil. Heap composting needs no bin and wonderful compost can develop in a corner of your yard designated for this purpose.
Trench and Sheet Cold Composting Variations
Trench composting is another cold method that needs no actual bin. A trench of about eight inches is dug in a suitable area, and around four inches of kitchen and household waste are placed in the trench, and then covered with dirt to fill the trench completely. Sheet composting is perhaps the easiest cold method of all, though it is most suitable for a small area of the yard. Shredded leaves and/or wood chips can be used in sheet composting. Simply top dress the chosen area with this material and leave it to decompose into the soil. Cold/slow methods of composting generally take about a year from start to finish.
The Hot Method of Composting
The Hot method is generally considered the fastest way of creating rich, usable compost. It takes a bit more effort than the cold composting method because the composting material has to be on the small side (less than two to three inches) for best results. Those who have a garden shredder are usually big fans of hot composting! A hot compost pile must be turned and aerated often during the composting process. Sufficient moisture is also important with this method and your goal for a hot compost bin or pile should be a moisture content of 40 to 60%. An advantage to hot composting is that the finished product tends to be richer in nutrients. The heat produced during this method also has the added effect of killing off any weed seeds or pathogens that may be in the material that is used to create the compost. Generally, the hot method is preferred by people who have a large enough garden space to easily house a big compost pile.
How Much Time Do You Have for Composting?
Your decision of which composting method to use may well be based on how much time you have to devote to this task. The Cold method gets high praise for its low maintenance, but there are still many proponents of the hot method of composting. There are first time compost aficionados who start two compost bins, one utilizing a hot method and one a cold method in their first year of composting. This is done in order to analyze the results and see which works best for their individual situation. No matter which method you choose, making your own compost can ensure you a beautiful garden!