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How to make compost

At Seraph we work actively at saving the planet... by the power of one.
We make compost, salvage wood for the stove, use sheeps wool insulation etc...
you get the picture...
Here is how to make compost...
The Composting Revolution;
21% of commercial waste and 32% of household waste is biodegradable.
Definition of compost
Composting provides a useful means of transforming biodegradable waste, such as fruit, vegetables, teabags and garden waste, into a product that can improve soil structure and nutrient levels. It is the decomposition of once-living materials into an earthy, dark, crumbly material that is excellent for adding to houseplants or enriching garden soil, to enhance our landscaping or grow vegetables and flowers.
Our target is to remove all biodegradable waste consigned to landfill; on site composting of organic waste is recommended as one way of reaching this target.
Observation; Anything not of living origin will not compost (i.e. metal/glass/plastics). Carefully ensure metal is not included in compost. Glass or plastic does not matter.
Types of organic waste?
“Green Waste”          Kitchen, canteen and coffee dock waste like fruit and vegetable remains, tea bags and coffee grounds, flowers, and vegetable waste can be composted. Kitchen wastes need to be mixed in with drier/bulkier materials to allow complete air penetration.
“Brown Waste”          Shredded office paper, newspaper and light cardboard, crushed eggshells, wood ash, natural clothing fiber, garden waste, such as grass cuttings, hedge clippings, old plants, weeds, garden cuttings and fallen leaves etc. We advise a policy change to the use of soy inks; these are more biodegradable than conventional oil based inks.
Carbon: Nitrogen or C/N balance is achieved though a good mix of browns and greens and assists the aeration and amount of water in the pile.
What may be composted
Fruit, vegetables (cooked or uncooked)
Kitchen paper
Bread, pasta and rice
Sawdust (untreated)
Tea bags and coffee
Garden waste
Weeds (not weed seeds or roots)
Twigs and branches (cut into pieces)
Dead plants and flowers
Crushed egg shells
Branches and twigs
Grass and hedge cuttings
What not to compost
Why it can't be composted
Raw and cooked meat, bones
Attracts pests
Poultry and fish
Attracts pests
Dairy Products
Attracts pests
Greasy, oily food such as mayonnaise or butter
Attracts pests and decompose slowly
Dog and cat litter
May contain pathogens (disease causing organisms)
Non-biodegrable materials
(plastics, glass, metals)
Will not decompose
Glossy papers and magazines
The glossy coating will not decompose
Weed seeds
Spreads weeds
Diseased plant material
Danger of spreading disease to other plants
Garden waste recently sprayed with pesticide
Chemicals need time for thorough decomposition
Sawdust and wood shavings from treated wood
Chemicals need time for thorough decomposition
Disposable nappies, used paper tissue
Could potentially contain pathogens (disease causing organisms)
The finished product
Compost is ready when it becomes dark, crumbly and uniform in texture, usually in about 1 year. Use compost as mulch around plants, as a top dressing over a lawn to fertilise the soil or dig in as a soil improver in vegetable or flowerbeds.
METHOD overview: Calculate on needing 70 litres of capacity per person per year.
There are a number of options for containing compost. Some people choose to go binless, simply building a compost pile in a convenient spot on the ground. Others build bins from materials such as recycled pallets, of course, there are many commercial bins on the market.  Use a large container, over 400 liters and commence a second container when the first is full allowing the first to complete its batch process of a year before emptying.
It is useful to have a small tightly lidded bucket to collect your organic waste for composting. This will reduce the number of trips to your composter.
Container composting - A compost container will protect the contents from the elements
1.      Traditional box system; there is debate as to whether slatted or closed sided bins are preferable; they affect air circulation within the compost pile, as well as the potential for heat loss. These are low-cost, attractive units built out of wooden pallets that are free for the asking from local businesses. Slow, robust but reliable; needs space
2.      Vermicompost / wormery; the use of a colony of tiger worms; space efficient, fast but requires attention to the delicate ph balance
3.      Cylindrical Bins; space efficient, composting can be carried out provided that attention is paid to issues of aeration and C:N ratios.
4.      Compost Oven; comprising of patented bubble film with an embedded self aerating and heating device to keep the compost warm, damp and insulated against heat loss. (No comment available)
5.      Tumbler; space efficient; not known to be successful
There are also differences between these techniques in terms of activators (that is, high nitrogen content organic substances to stimulate high bacterial activity within the heap, e.g., urine, grass mowings, comfery leaves etc.) and materials used.
Composting Fundamentals
  • Place the composting bin on grass or earth to allow worms to enter the bin from underneath. Worms will help keep air circulating through the material. Plenty of air is required to speed up the composting process and to avoid odours. As the material decomposes, moisture seeps out and you will need to allow this liquid to soak into your grass or earth. Bins with bases need holes to allow for worm entry and should be raised slightly off the ground (i.e., by 1-2cm.) to prevent the holes becoming blocked, which would prevent worm and oxygen entry. You can achieve this by placing a few flat stones under the base.
  • Loosen the soil in order to help drainage and make it easier for the contents to degrade
  • Place where it will get some sunshine, if possible; Containers made of dark colours will absorb light from the sun, without drying out the material in the container
  • Protect the container from heavy rain: Heavy rain can waterlog and prevent composting.
Good composting is a matter of providing the proper environmental conditions for microbial life.
Compost is made by billions of microbes, fungi, bacteria, worms, insects, beetles and spiders that make a living from the organic wastes provided for them. All of these will slowly make compost under any conditions. However, these living things need air, water, and food, some attention to maintenance to provide for their needs, will turn waste into compost more quickly.
Bacteria are single-celled organisms, and are the most numerous denizens of the soil, with populations ranging from 100 million to 3 billion in a gram. They are capable of very rapid reproduction by binary fission (dividing into two) in favorable conditions. One bacterium is capable of producing 16 million more in just 24 hours.
AIR               Composting microbes are aerobic, they require adequate ventilation. Without air, anaerobic (non-air needing) microbes take over the pile. They do cause slow decomposition, but tend to putrefy. Occasionally turn the pile to get air into it, making a more 'fluffed-up' condition.
WATER        slightly moist with a thin film of water coating every particle in the pile, makes it very easy for microbes to live and disperse themselves throughout the pile. If the pile is too dry, it won't be very good microbial habitat, and composting will be slowed significantly. However sodden ingredients will be so heavy that they will mat down and exclude air from the pile, again slowing the composting process (and perhaps creating anaerobic odour problem). When adding dry ingredients, such as autumn leaves or paper, it may be necessary to moisten them; male urine is considered the best moisture to add. Kitchen fruit and vegetable wastes generally have plenty of moisture, as do fresh green grass clippings and garden thinnings.
Other Things To Consider
The compost pile will probably go more dormant in the winter and start back up again when the springtime comes.
A common misunderstanding about compost piles is that they must be hot to be successful. This isn't true, with good aeration and moisture, and a good ingredient mix, a pile will decompose fine at temperatures of 10 degrees C or above.
Hotter piles will decompose faster, due to the collective body heat of billions of microbes, or conditions that allow the microbes to have faster metabolisms, and therefore a faster composting process. For the pile to get hot and stay hot for a long period of time, the typical minimum size for the pile is one cubic meter. A pile this size has plenty of mass in which those billions of heat-generating microbes can live, yet is also large enough that the centre of the pile is well-insulated by the material surrounding it. Smaller piles just cannot insulate themselves well enough to remain hot for long, if at all.
When is compost finished?
Finished compost is dark in colour and has an earthy smell (like the smell of soil). Usually, it's difficult to recognize any of the original ingredients, although bits of hard-to-decompose materials (such as straw) sometimes can be seen.
There is no single point at which compost is finished -- it's a bit more subjective than that. For many outdoor garden applications, for instance, it can be fine to use compost that still has a few recognizable bits of leaves or straw -- it will finish rotting in the soil.
Compost as Soil Improver:  
·         Compost can be dug in prior to spring planting
·         Compost can be used as a 'top dressing' on the soil during the growing season -- in this case it is thinly added in around the bases of plants, where irrigation and soil animals will slowly incorporate it into the soil
·         Sprinkle sifted compost on lawns as a top dressing in the spring
·         Top-dress houseplants occasionally with small handfuls of finished compost
·         Compost can be left on the surface as mulch around landscape and garden plants; mulches thickly cover all of the soil around the plants that get mulched. Mulches protect the soil from erosion. They also save water by shielding soil from the drying effect of the wind and sun.
·         Compost as Tea: Compost tea is made by combining equal parts of compost and water and letting it sit for a while. The liquid can help to provide a 'quick boost' to ailing houseplants or young seedlings and transplants; dilute it quite a bit for use on seedlings. The same compost can be used to make several batches of tea. When you're finished making compost tea, use the mucky dregs as mulch in the garden or landscape.
How does compost improve the soil?
Compost does several things to benefit the soil that synthetic fertilizers cannot do.
        It adds organic matter, which improves the way water interacts with the soil
        In sandy soils, compost acts as a sponge to help retain water in the soil that would otherwise drain down below the reach of plant roots and protects plants against drought
        In clay soils, compost helps to add porosity (tiny holes and passageways) to the soil, making it drain more quickly so that it doesn't stay waterlogged and doesn't dry out into a bricklike substance
        It inoculates the soil with vast numbers of beneficial microbes (bacteria, fungi, etc.) and the habitat that the microbes need to live. These microbes are able to extract nutrients from the mineral part of the soil and eventually pass the nutrients on to plants.
Possible Composting Systems: In Detail

One Bin Systems: Almost no cost outlay. A one bin system is the simplest way to make a compost pile, and is a great way to get started; adding another can be a simple matter. The basic idea of a one bin system is to make an enclosure for your bin that is at least three feet (or about one meter) across. Possible construction materials include free wooden pallets from local businesses. Avoid using treated wood (usually has a green tint, indicates heat treated with arsenic). Typically a compost heap is built over time; the stuff on the bottom will decompose first, since it will have been there the longest.Two Bin and Three Bin Systems: adjacent bins, like a one bin system. One bin for the pile being built and another one (or more) for a pile already built that is in a more advanced stage of decomposition. Where there is space for such a system, and you are generating or gathering enough materials to keep the bins in use, this can be very convenient. In a three bin system, start by building a pile in the leftmost bin; the original pile is turned into the middle bin when, aerating it to accelerate the composting process. Another pile is then built in the leftmost bin. When that pile is completed, the old pile (which is now in the middle) is turned a final time into the rightmost bin for finishing, and the just-built pile is turned into the middle bin, making the leftmost bin available for yet another pile. Finished compost will eventually be removed from the rightmost bin

Rotating or Tumbling Systems: The cost of these small systems can be quite high, reputed to finish compost in three weeks but not known to work. Fill the container partly full with a mix of greens and moistened browns, and then give the unit a turn every day or so to aerate the ingredients and remix them. It's important not to pack the container full, because the ingredients won't tumble and mix if packed in tightly. It's possible to maintain relatively high temperatures in drum/tumbler systems even if they are small, both because the container acts as insulation and because the constant turning keeps the microbes aerated and active.
Sheet or Trench Composting: This may be the ideal small system where there is a garden. Simply bury kitchen wastes in a trench 8" deep dug in the garden, leave the buried materials to rot for a few months, and then plant above them. The materials will have rotted into stuff in which plant roots will thrive.
Commercially Available Bin Systems: Commercially available bins are typically somewhat expensive compared to do-it-yourself bins, but they do keep compost neatly enclosed and can provide an 'instant solution' to the question of how to set up a composting system. In performance, many of the plastic bins may help to insulate the compost, allowing decomposition to occur later into the cold season.
Worm Bin Composting: Maintaining an enclosed bin specifically for 'vermicomposting' is an excellent way to take care of food wastes. This system can be kept indoors. With the exception of holes for drainage and ventilation, tiger worm bins for indoor use are typically completely enclosed. Outdoors, tiger worms can be turned loose in a pile in your compost bin, or contained in a worm bin built specifically for vermicomposting.
Some municipalities, fearful of rodent pests and the diseases they may carry, discourage or even prohibit the composting of food wastes in open piles, recommending enclosed worm bins instead. A sturdy outdoor worm bin is protected from pests, and produces compost quickly during the warm season (or year-round in mild climates).
Vermicomposting requires tiger worms or brandling worms, a typical earthworm from the garden won't do. They can be obtained from fishing tackle shops, from someone else that has a worm bin or from an old compost heap. They are smaller than true earthworms and they tend to have yellow bands between the segments at the "tail end" of the worm. This species is adapted to living in decomposing organic materials rather than in the soil. They ingest the ingredients and bedding, turning it all into worm castings (faeces) that are an excellent finished compost. In general, newly added soft green material is eaten within a 2 week period. Tougher plant materials may take a bit longer for the worms to digest.
Ideally situate the bin in a sheltered spot that is sunny for only the early part of the day. Avoid extremely sunny locations as too much sun can overheat the bin. Keep the bin away from the cold winds and frosts or insulate it in winter if the worms are to keep on making compost or relocate them indoors. A build up of too much food, too much water or not enough aeration, may result in it putrefying and the bin will begin to smell; add paper waste, to absorb water, and mix it in to aerate. The amount of airflow in the bin is another factor that is important - worms are living organisms and need air, so opening the bin regularly is important (this will happen anyway as you add fresh organic material for them to break down).
Feed worms little and often.
It's claimed that worms will process half their own body weight in organic matter each day. 1kg of worms will process ½ kg of organic waste per day. However, the rate of organic matter breakdown is also very much related to the conditions the worm bin is exposed to. In cooler winter weather the processing rate can be slower, while in the summer the worms turn over organic material very quickly. Over time, the feeding rate will become faster as the worm population increases.

Too much acidic material is hard for the worms to digest. Avoid orange peel and all citrus fruits, onions, perennial weed roots and weed seeds, and grass mowings. Tiny white worms may be found on the surface of your bin are called Enchytraeids. They are also called 'Potworms' or 'White Worms'. They are composters too. They indicate that the bin is slightly acidic. Adding a sprinkling of lime or adding finely crushed egg shells and small amounts of wood ash to the mix on an on-going basis will help keep the pH balance.
Small quantities of meat scraps may be added to the bin, however large quantities of meat that have gone off and may have become colonised by maggot larvae. If these are added to a bin, the maggots will continue to grow and develop into flies.
  •  Kitchen and household scraps - Old fruit and vegetables, cut flowers, tea leaves, coffee grounds, crushed eggshells, etc.
  • Paper & Cardboard - Small amounts, torn up (avoid magazines and colour inks). Mix well with other items.
  • Wood Ash -Provides potassium and lime
  • Hair - From the family pet, or the family, moistened
  • Leaves - Add a little at a time. If there are large amounts these are best made into leaf mould in a separate heap.
  • Grass cuttings ­ Caution - High in nitrogen and a good "activator", but care must be taken not to overwhelm the compost bin with grass as it can turn into a slimy mess. Mix well with other materials. Do not add more than 2 handfuls of grass clippings to a 70-90 litres worm bin at any one time.
  • Dog & Cat droppings - This type of animal manure may carry parasites
  • Man-made fibres - These will not rot
  • Material infected with diseases - Composting may not kill these diseases
  • Materials sprayed with weed killers - The residues may remain in the heap
  • Meat bones
Do not add too much material at the start and let the population of worms in the bin increase naturally. Ideally for a 70-90 litre bin it is recommended to use 250 gms of worms.
The brown watery liquid coming by product of the bin results from the break-down of the vegetable matter in the bin which can be as much as 95% water. The liquid is rich in minerals and nutrients ideal for plant growth, do not discard. Place the bin so that the liquid can be collected. Dilute it one part to 3 parts water and use as liquid fertilizer to feed plants in the garden or containers; however it can become foul smelling if left to stagnate.

When the bin is full, the compost is harvested by transferring the top six inches of fresh kitchen waste into large buckets, along with all the worms. Deeper into the bin, the more brown and decomposed the compost becomes. The compost will improve if left for a few weeks or months in a plastic bag. As you transfer the compost to the bags collect as many of the worms as possible and return them to the fresh material from the surface of the bin. They are the population for the new colony.
Vermicompost is a gardener's dream and very fertile material. It can be used anything in the garden or container gardening except for seedling germination, as it is too rich.
In general, it is better to mix it with leaf mould, cóir or shredded wood compost to make material suitable for potting on container grown plants or as a rich mix for tomatoes, cucumbers, beans and window boxes. If you have a lot of material, it can be used to enrich soil in the garden or vegetable plots.

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