What is Composting:
Composting is the transformation of organic material (plant matter) through decomposition into a soil-like material called compost. Invertebrates (insects and earthworms), and microorganisms (bacteria and fungi) help in transforming the material into compost. Composting is a natural form of recycling, which continually occurs in nature. (How To Compost)
Composting produces a rich source of organic
matter that can be returned to the land, especially in agricultural
practices, to increase soil fertility and sustain agricultural
productivity. Utilizing compost on
agricultural land can reduce drought and disease, aid crops in
improved uptake of soil nutrients, and can create an environment
secure in active nutrient cycling. The
above advantages can reduce cropping risks, allow for higher yields,
and reduce use of inorganic fertilizer. It
is important to note that composting material can be used on agricultural
lands in large-scale terms, but can also be utilized in small-scale
terms in personal home gardens. (Food
And Agricultural Organization of the United Nations)
Tropical wet climates intrinsically create favorable environmental
conditions for composting. The conditions
required for composting are: moist (not wet), high temperatures
(ideally 60°C, or
140°F), and air.
Tropical wet climates are both hot and wet, and the aeration requirement
can be achieved through turning. Sometimes
the wet environment can cause problems because rain can leach
important nutrients out of the compost. In such a situation covering the compost
pile should reduce nutrient loss.
The Benefits of Composting are:
For a thorough list of composting materials refer to: Mastercomposter.com
Not to Use:
Mixed plant residues
Corn cobs (unless broken down)
Animal dung/urine (can collect using hay/straw) Rubber
Wood ash Bones
Fallen leaves Meat*
Fodder Leftovers Fat*
Egg shells Oils*
*These items can be composted in small amounts if the composting pile is turned often
and the temperature, air, and moisture requirements are adequately met.
Basic Steps For Composting
Locate a site
away from structures and gardens. Unwanted organisms can migrate
between the two areas.
Try to build compost pile on a well-drained earth surface if possible.
It is best to locate the compost pile near the majority of materials that will be composted to minimize labor.
2) Dig a pit with a 5 foot (1.5 meter) diameter or build a 3ft x 3ft x 3ft (1m x 1m x 1m) box.
Other materials such as wire mesh, concrete, wood, brick, sheet metal, etcetera can be used.
-It is advised not to build a box too small because the compost will not retain its heat. (May not be a problem for some places)
3) Line the bottom of containment
with a base 30 centimeters high with coarse plant material such
This will ensure good air circulation and drainage.
Add to compost
mechanism with materials no larger than 2-3 inches
(food, manures, woods, and leaves).
Some materials can be prepared by breaking them down to aid in faster decomposition, e.g., chopping up woody materials.
the moistness and temperature of the compost and
add water as necesssary.
Significant heating of the compost pile within 2-7 days after creation indicates successful compost initiation.
It should be 50% water by weight. To check, pick up a handful of material. It should feel like a wrung-out sponge.
There should be enough water that it almost, but not quite, drips when you hold it in your hand.
Steps 1 through 5 adapted from:
Henry Doubleday Research Association A
Turn the pile
- preferably mix outer layer into middle layer and
vice versa, or mix best as possible by any method.
Best to turn when the temperature of the compost pile starts to decrease.
The purpose of turning is to expose the rising temperature in the middle to increase aeration, and thus decomposition.
Cover the Pile
- Sacking, grass thatch or banana leaves are suitable
This prevents excess rain from leaching nutrients out and helps to keeps moisture in.
8) Finished when pile appears dark and homogenous, it is dark brown in color, crumbly, and is earthy-smelling.
Small pieces of leaves or other ingredients may be visible. If the compost contains many materials which are not broken down, it is only partly decomposed.
Sources: Florida's Online Composting Center and Compost Guide
exist, but they tend to require more work, more materials,
and more advanced technologies.
These are a few methods that are based on the above template:
Pile (Windrow) Composting
Aerobic composting reduces phytotoxicity, the heat generated from aerobic composting accelerates the breakdown of proteins, fats, and complex carbohydrates
Date Created: February 28, 2005
Date Updated: April 8, 2005