Step Up Your Game
Composting is simple and natural. By managing variables, such as oxygen levels and moisture content, you can maximize your pile's efficiency and create amazing compost. With the information below you can take your composting efforts to the next level, one step at a time.
(introducing oxygen throughout the pile)
Sufficient aeration is critical to keep a compost pile hot, healthy, and productive.
Passive Static Aerated Piles - PVC pipe method
To improve aeration, a perforated PVC pipe can be inserted in the middle of the pile and left static like a chimney. This will allow for oxygen to reach the inside of the pile, which will allow the necessary microbe activity to occur and ensure the compost is breaking down properly. The PVC pipe should be approximately 4" in diameter, though anything close should do the job. The pipe should be cut to just longer than the height of your pile. We prefer to angle the pipes into the pile at around 45 degrees. This allows heavier cool air to travel down the pipe as hot air and steam travel up and out of the pipe. It also makes for easier removal when it's time to sift the piles. This method of passive static aerated piles is very inexpensive and significantly increases oxygen levels, which is clear to see when your pile temps remain high for much longer. Oxygen can only penetrate about 1 foot into the compost, so space your aeration pipes about 2 feet apart from each other throughout your piles.
Forced Aeration Piles
This is the next step up from Static Aerated Piles, and in fact it is very similar. The same pipes are used to provide oxygen, except they are attached to a blower in order to push air throughout the system. The blower is usually set to a timer, which will periodically turn on and circulate air throughout the pipes and the piles. This method provides more consistent conditions for efficient composting, however it does require more power for the blowers. When time is taken to lay out the pipes appropriately, Forced Aeration Systems will maximize oxygen availability within the piles, which will help to minimize the time it takes to complete the composting process.
(maintaining moisture levels throughout the pile)
Without water, the microbes will not survive. With too much, the microbes will drown.
Aim for "clumpable" but not wet.
Covered Piles - Wrapped Cube Method
By covering your compost piles with clear plastic, sunlight is able to penetrate and heat the pile while moisture is contained, reducing changes to the overall moisture content. For simple pallet cube compost piles or similar, start by hanging plastic over the pile. Ensure there is enough to reach the bottom on all sides. Carefully cut a hole to allow for any aeration pipes to pierce through to the open air, as the pile will still need an oxygen supply. You can use clear box tape to reinforce the cut areas of plastic to ensure it does not tear further. Use a cargo strap or bungee cords to secure the plastic sheeting against the wood sides of the bin. This covering method also helps to reduce odors.
Covered Piles - Greenhouse Method
This works very much like the wrapped cube method, except that it houses all of the piles within a greenhouse rather than individually wrapping them. The greenhouse provides much more room to move about, as well as protection from the elements during rain and snow. However, during the summer, the greenhouse does get hot. The compost piles love it, you may not. The greenhouse provides one layer of insulation, however, you can always use the wrapped cube method within the greenhouse to double-insulate the piles (individually wrapped piles, within a fully wrapped greenhouse = 2 layers). This is excellent for controlling odors.
(removing contaminants & under-processed materials in order to create a clean & uniformly sized finished product)
Mature compost isn't quite finished until you sift it. You'll be amazed at how sifting transforms your pile into beautiful fine compost.
Sifting - Tray Method
This is the simplest and least expensive method, though it is not ideal for larger volumes.
Simply fill the tray with un-sifted compost and shake it back and forth until the finer compost falls through, then dump the larger pieces back into your piles in order to allow them to break down further. You can build a tray using 2x4s and a small piece of wire mesh, or you can buy one for fairly cheap.
Sifting - Rotary Drum Method
This method takes a little bit more work. We created our drum sifter using a concrete mixer, a 55 gallon plastic drum, some hardware, and a piece of wire mesh fencing. This option is much faster with larger volumes, as you can continuously add materials and let the machine handle the hard work for you. Feel free to REACH OUT for info on building your own.