Composting is Similar
Composting is similar, but different and easier. Similar in that decomposition is much like any other fermentation. Different in that the home composter rarely has exactly the same materials to work with from batch to batch, does not need to control the purity and nature of the organisms that will do the actual work of humus formation, and has a broad selection of materials that can go into a batch of compost.
Easier because critical and fussy people don’t eat or drink compost, the soil does; soil and most plants will, within broad limits, happily tolerate wide variations in compost quality without complaint.
Some composters are very fussy and much like fine bakers or skilled brewers, take great pains to produce a material exactly to their liking by using complex methods. Usually these are food gardeners with powerful concerns about health, the nutritional quality of the food they grow and the improved growth of their vegetables.
However, there are numerous simpler, less rigorous ways of composting that produce a product nearly as good with much less work. These more basic methods will appeal to the less-committed backyard gardener or the homeowner with lawn, shrubs, and perhaps a few flower beds. One unique method suited to handling kitchen garbage—vermicomposting (worms)--might appeal even to the ecologically concerned apartment dweller with a few house plants.
An Extremely Crude Composting Process I’ve been evolving a personally-adapted composting system for the past twenty years. I’ve gone through a number of methods. I’ve used and then abandoned power chipper/shredders, used home-made bins and then switched to crude heaps; I’ve sheet composted, mulched, and used green manure.
I first made compost on a half-acre lot where maintaining a tidy appearance was a reasonable concern. Now, living in the country, I don’t have be concerned with what the neighbors think of my heaps because the nearest neighbor’s house is 800 feet from my compost area and I live in the country because I don’t much care to care what my neighbors think.
That’s why I now compost so crudely. There are a lot of refinements I could use but don’t bother with at this time. I still get fine compost. What follows should be understood as a description of my unique, personal method adapted to my temperament and the climate I live in. I start this book off with such a simple example because I want you to see how completely easy it can be to make perfectly usable compost.
I intend this description for inspiration, not emulation. I am a serious food gardener. Starting in spring I begin to accumulate large quantities of vegetation that demand handling. There are woody stumps and stalks of various members of the cabbage family that usually overwinter in western Oregon’s mild winters.
These biennials go into bloom by April and at that point I pull them from the garden with a fair amount of soil adhering to the roots. These rough materials form the bottom layer of a new pile.