The image file:///H:/Composting/comp%20temp.gif cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.    Composting in Moist Tropical Environments

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)


Why 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:                                                                                                                      

(Composting 101)

Composting Materials:
For a thorough list of composting materials refer to:

What to Use:                                                                                        What Not to Use:

       Mixed plant residues                                                                         Corn cobs (unless broken down)
       Animal dung/urine (can collect using hay/straw)                              Rubber
       Wood ash                                                                                            Bones
       Weeds                                                                                                 Metal
       Stalks                                                                                                  Plastic
       Stems                                                                                                  Styrofoam
       Fallen leaves                                                                                      Meat*
       Fodder Leftovers                                                                               Fat*
       Egg shells                                                                                           Oils*
       Tea                                                                                                     Dairy*

                                                                                                     *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

1) 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 as twigs.
        This will ensure good air circulation and drainage.     

4)  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.

5) Monitor 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

6) 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.

7) Cover the Pile - Sacking, grass thatch or banana leaves are suitable for this. 
      This prevents excess rain from leaching nutrients out and helps to keeps moisture in.

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


Alternative Methods

Other methods 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:

       Static Pile (Windrow) Composting

      Aerated Static Pile

       Vermicomposting The image file:///H:/Composting/run.gif cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

The image file:///H:/Composting/Vermcomposting.gif cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.
Photo Courtesy of Composting 101, Brandon, MB

Aerobic composting reduces phytotoxicity, the heat generated from aerobic composting accelerates the breakdown of proteins, fats, and complex carbohydrates

Composting Links:

Created By:
Casey Rosengarden
York Lewis

Date Created:  February 28, 2005
Date Updated:  April 8, 2005

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