How A Composting Pile Works

What makes a Compost Pile works,

that is , what helps decomposition in a composting pile, can be explained this way.  I will give you a general overview of what must happen to make organic waste material decompose. You’re all familiar with nature’s process that when  leaves drop from a tree, they decay into soft black humus over time, without any help from people. When an animal dies, its remains slowly return to the earth. Anything that once lived will eventually decompose.

But…what is really helping these organic materials decompose? What’s going on behind the scene?. . .

Since there are many ways to compost, I will focus on hot composting– a very popular method used by most gardeners – to show you what is involved when materials decompose.

During the decomposition procedure, which is based on the natural process explained above, the procedure begins with the thousands of micro-organisms which live naturally in soil. These micro-organisms feed on a moist heap of organic waste materials, generating considerable heat in the process. Other groups of “decomposer” organisms, an ever-changing workforce of bacteria, fungi, and insects, go to work as the temperature rises.

When the temperature drops, turning or stirring the pile gives the “decomposers” more oxygen and the heat builds again, helping to kill harmful bacteria.

When all the easily decomposed material has been consumed, the temperature drops for the last time and earthworms and ants may move in, signaling that the compost is ready to feed new plants with its “recycled” nutrients.

How To Recognize Finished Compost

Finished compost has the distinctive fresh smell of newly-turned soil or a forest floor in spring, and won’t heat up again no matter how often you turn air into the pile. The ideal result of the composting process is crumbly, dark, soil-like humus where none of the original material can be identified. The nutrients stored in compost depend on the richness and variety of its ingredients, and on its exposure to harsh weather. But experienced gardeners know there is no such thing as bad compost! No matter what, a compost pile always works.

As explained in the previous article “Why Compost?”, finished compost is “backyard magic” because finished compost helps restructure the soil,  reconditions the soil, protects the soil from drought and erosion by holding onto its water, and most importantly  puts nutrients back into the soil thus putting nutrients back into our food to help us stay healthy. There is just nothing comparable to it.

Therefore, it only makes sense for people to have their own little garden where they can use organic compost to help grow their own vegetables in a healthy,  safe environment.  For the person who wants to  eat healthy and stay healthier, organic gardening is well worth the effort and ” is the way to go”!


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PS :  In the next post I will give you a general overview of the “Compost Recipe”. It is rather long so I may have to divide it into two or three posts.

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