Composting basics
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Composting Basics. Chip Boling Clemson Extension Service. What is Composting. Composting is controlled biological reduction of organic wastes to “humus”. Benefits of Compost. Improves soil structure Supplies plant with essential plant nutrients-not a substitute for fertilizer

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Composting basics

Composting Basics

Chip Boling

Clemson Extension Service


What is composting

What is Composting

  • Composting is controlled biological reduction of organic wastes to “humus”


Benefits of compost

Benefits of Compost

  • Improves soil structure

  • Supplies plant with essential plant nutrients-not a substitute for fertilizer

  • Stores nutrients for long-term availability to plants

  • Supports beneficial soil life


Qualities of finished compost

Qualities of Finished Compost

  • Fine

  • Dark

  • Sweet Smelling

  • Doesn’t heat up under otherwise good composting conditions

  • pH is 7.0-9.0


Factors affecting the composting process

Factors Affecting the Composting Process

  • Carbon and Nitrogen content of materials

  • Size of particles-surface area exposed

  • Moisture levels

  • Aeration of materials in the compost

  • Volume of materials


Microbes decomposers

Microbes (Decomposers)

  • Bacteria

  • Actinomycetes

  • Protozoa

  • Fungi (most “like” 70-75 F and some will even tolerate 120 F)


Optimum carbon nitrogen ratio is 30 1 by weight

Optimum Carbon:Nitrogen Ratio is 30:1 (By Weight)


Carbon nitrogen ratios by weight

Carbon:Nitrogen Ratios (By Weight)

Materials with High Nitrogen Ratios

  • Kitchen Scraps 12-20:1

  • Grass Clippings, green 12-25:1

  • Coffee grounds 20:1

  • Cow manure 20:1

  • Horse Manure 25:1

  • Horse Manure (w/litter) 30-60:1

  • Poultry Manure (fresh) 10:1

  • Pig Manure 5-7:1


Carbon nitrogen ratios by weight1

Carbon:Nitrogen Ratios (By Weight)

Materials with High Carbon Ratios

  • Foliage (leaves) 30-80:1

  • Corn Stalks 60:1

  • Straw 40-100:1

  • Bark 100-130:1

  • Paper 150-200:1

  • Wood Chips & Sawdust 100-500:1


Items that go into a compost pile

Items That Go Into A Compost Pile

  • Aquatic Weeds

  • Bread

  • Fruit (avoid pits)

  • Tea Leaves

  • Garden Wastes

  • Wood Ash

  • Egg Shells

  • Evergreen Needles

  • Wood Chips


Items that do not go into a compost pile

Items That Do Not Go Into A Compost Pile

  • Butter

  • Cat & Dog Manure

  • Diseased Plants

  • Fish Scraps

  • Hard Seeded Weeds

  • Mayonaise & Salad Dressing

  • Meat & Bones

  • Peanut Butter

  • Vegetable Oil


Temperature of your pile

Temperature of Your Pile

  • Psychrophilic Bacteria 55 F

  • Mesophilic Bacteria 70-100 F

  • Thermophilic Bacteria 113-155 F

    Many decomposers die when temperatures rise above 160 F


Ideal temperature

Ideal Temperature

  • 90 F to 140 F is Optimum

  • 160 F is “Sterilization Temperature”


Avoiding pests

Avoiding Pests

  • Keep high protein and fatty waste out!

  • Encourage pile heating.

  • Build an animal-proof compost bin.


Shredding

Shredding

  • Speeds the composting process by increasing the amount of surface.

  • Small amounts of shredding can fluff the pile.

  • Excess shredding can reduce porosity causing compaction.


Fertilizers that are organic sources of nitrogen

Fertilizers That Are Organic Sources of Nitrogen

  • Blood Meal (15%)

  • Coffee Grounds (2%)

  • Compost (1-2%)

  • Cottonseed Meal (6%)

  • Fish Emulsion (10%)

  • Manure (0.5-1%)

  • Seaweed Emulsion (2%)


Creative composting

Creative Composting

  • Grasscycling

  • Vermicomposting

  • Sheet Composting

  • Pit and Trench Composting


Uses for compost

Uses for Compost

  • Soil Amendment (no more than 1/3 by volume)

  • Mulch (never more than 2-3 inches)

  • Top Dressing for Lawns

  • Component in Potting Mixes


Clemson extension service

Clemson Extension Service

  • Charleston

    • 722-5940

  • Berkeley

    • 723-3800 ext.4140

    • 719-4140

  • Dorchester

    • 832-0135

    • 563-3441


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