“Black Gold” is what most farmers and gardeners call compost, and this is because of the numerous benefits that it yields not only to the soil but also to our entire ecosystem.
The Composting process involves a lot of microbial activities that transform organic matter into fertilizer that is useful to the plants.
There are, however, 4 main components that must be present before the compost is formed: organic matter, moisture, oxygen, and bacteria.
These 4 components all play different roles in making compost, and if one of these materials is absent, the composting process grinds to a halt. So let’s get to know how important all these components are in making compost.
Benefits Of Composting
Compost is decomposed plants, food waste, and other organic materials that release plant nutrients taken up by the roots of plants when added to the soil. There are many benefits of composting, including:
1. It Adds Nutrients To The Soil
This is the main reason people make compost; they are looking for a means of adding organic fertilizer to the soil in the form of humus.
The organic matters that are acted upon by microorganisms to convert them into fertilizer have nutrients embedded in them that are useful for plants growth.
2. It Helps in Water Retention
Adding compost to the soil reduces the amount of water that seeps out of the soil, and this is because the compost helps bind the water to the soil particles so that it does not get lost so easily.
3. Adds Valuable Organisms To The Soil
There are many beneficial microorganisms that the soil and plants need to thrive, from nitrogen-fixing bacteria to Nitrobacter, some microbes that release nitrogen into the soil for plants.
4. Recycling Kitchen And Other Wastes
Do you know that more than 30% of your kitchen waste can be Composted, and the advantage of this is that you will significantly reduce the amount of trash in your home?
The implications are that you are saving the street by throwing out the trash more frequently, and you also have some cash because you will not need to buy trash bags that often
5. It Reduces Landfill Waste
It takes quite a while for the trash that is thrown in the landfills to decompose completely, and so, when many people make compost, it reduces the amount of trash that goes to the landfills, and even the ones that decompose in the landfills adds little it nothing to the nutrient needs of the plant.
6. Composting is Eco-friendly
Inorganic fertilizers are not great for our ecosystem because they introduce harmful chemicals into the environment.
This is not so with compost, which helps take off solid waste around us while also yielding plant nutrients that have no negative effect on the environment.
7. Difficult Soil type Becomes Easier to Grow Plants
Clayey and sandy soils are not common for growing most kinds of crops, but when compostable is added to them, they become a lot easier to grow different plants on them.
When compostable is added to clay soil, it makes it easier to work and grow different crops, and compost improves the water-holding capacity of sandy soil.
The 4 Components Of Composting
Making components involves the interaction of 4 components that are compulsory if composts are to be made, and they are:
- Organic matter
1. Organic Matter
These are the compostable ingredients that the other components act upon to yield compost. Organic matter is all biodegradable materials that you can turn into compost.
Based on the elements that compostable ingredients yield when they are Composted, these organic matters are broadly divided into two main groups:
- Carbon-yielding organic matter
- Nitrogen-yielding organic matter
a. Carbon-Yielding Organic Matter
All organic matter contains carbon in different quantities, and carbon is highly needed in a compostable pile because it forms the basic nutrient that all plants need.
Organic matter high in carbon is usually referred to in composting as “brown compost materials, examples include; wood chips, peanut hulls, dried leaves, grasses, and the likes.
Carbon provides the energy for the bacteria and fungi in your compost pile; it also gives a good texture to the compost pile, which ensures that there are many air pockets on the pile, which means that the microorganisms get the essential oxygen they need—too much brown organic matter results in compost that takes time to be ready.
b. Nitrogen-Yielding Organic Matter
Nitrogen-yielding organic matter, also known as the green compostable materials, consists of mostly recently growing or wet materials, they might be in color or not.
They yield nitrogen in the compost, and their sources include coffee grounds, green leaves, animal wastes, kitchen scraps, and the like.
Nitrogen plays many important functions in a compost pile because it is an essential component of amino acids, proteins, and nucleic acids, which both the plants that are to be grown with the compost and the microorganisms need to perform functions like growth and functioning of the cells.
Too much greens in the compost will cause a buildup of ammonia in a pile, which will cause it to be slimy and stinky. The solution is to add more brown compost materials to the pile.
Water is an important part of almost all microbial activities, in fact, for every life activity. The compost pile should be as moist as the wetness of a wrung-out sponge.
If the pile is dry, it will take a lot of time for compost to form. On very hot days or when you add little brown compostable materials, then be sure to add some water to moisten the pile.
If the pile is too dry, materials will decompose very slowly. Add water during dry periods or add large amounts of brown organic material. However, if the pile is too wet, then add brown compostable materials that will absorb some of the moisture.
The microorganisms in the compost pile require oxygen for breaking down organic matter. You can introduce oxygen to the compost pile by turning it to incorporate air into the pile.
When turning the compost, ensure that you move the materials at the edges of the compost bin into the center; it will bring about complete composting and eliminate odor from the compost pile.
Turning the compost pile also breaks up any compostable materials that have been matted over time. Too much nitrogen is built up in a compost bin where there is little oxygen, leading to anaerobic processes that will cause the compost to sink.
You should turn your compost pile once every 2 weeks to allow the center of the pile to “heat up” and then decompose, and afterward, you will notice that the center has cooled down; this is a sign that decomposition has taken place.
You might say that bacteria and other microorganisms do the real work in the composting process; this is because they are the ones that act in the organic matter in the presence of water and oxygen to give compost.
As these microbes feed on organic matter, many biological and chemical processes convert organic matter into organic fertilizers.
When the bacteria begin to decompose the organic matter, a lot of heat is released, which gets concentrated at the center of the pile.
If you feel that the microbial activities in your pile are slow due, you can introduce more bacteria into the pile by adding layers of soil or finished compost.
There are also commercial compost starters that you can add that have bacteria that will start up the decomposition process in your compost bin.
Insects and other larger organisms like earthworms also aid the other microbes in decomposing organic matter; they break down the larger organic matter in a pile.
How Long Does Composting Process Take?
The amount of time it will take the 4 components of composting to interact and yield compost depends on a number of factors, including:
1. The Size of The Compost pile
Larger compost piles yield compost faster because it generates a lot of heat needed for decomposition, unlike smaller piles that generate little heat and take longer to decompose. A secondly larger compost pile can retain the much-needed moisture that the compost pile needs
2. The Type of Compostable Ingredient
If there is a balance of the green and brown compostable material, the compost is most likely to yield compost faster.
The ideal ratio of brown to green compostable material is 2:1. Others go for equal ratios of compostable ingredients; by and large, you will still get your compost ready in good time.
3. The Surface Areas of The Compostable Ingredient
By breaking down your compostable materials into smaller pieces, you create larger surface areas for the microbes to work on, which will make the compost ready faster. This is one of the reasons why people shred the materials they add to their compost pile.
4. The Number of Times The Compost is Turned
Aeration of the compost pile by turning it introduces fresh oxygen into the mix, which will greatly increase the decomposition rate, control the pile’s temperature, and lead to the increase of aerobic microbes in the compost pile.
5. The Time of The Year
In summer, the heat encourages the growth and activities of microorganisms in the compost pile, which means that the compost will yield faster, while the cold temperature of winter slows down the whole decomposition process and thus increases the length of time it will take your compost to be ready.
All things being equal, compostable materials will take about three months to a year to turn into compost, depending on the factors enumerated above.
The 4 components that must be present before a compost can be made are organic matter, which includes green and brown compost materials, moisture, and oxygen, which the bacteria and the other microbes require to turn simple scraps into nutrient-rich materials.
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We trust this article helped you know The 4 Components of Composting. You may also want to check out Best Kitchen Compost Grinder for Home Use.
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