There’s nothing like the rich, earthy smell of mature compost and the sight of wriggly earthworms working their way through the mix. The results of applying compost to your soil can be equally as delightful, with better soil structure, increased water filtration, and a healthier and more nutrient-dense harvest. Discover five easy ways to make compost in your field, orchard, or home garden that are easy to do and cost very little to build.
1. Hot Compost
The #1 BEST way to make compost and one of the most popular techniques in Permaculture is the Berkley hot composting method. In contrast to the usual cold compost pile that takes six-twelve months to break down, a hot compost pile only takes 18 days to break down and kills the weeds, seeds, and pathogens in the process. The three elements that make this composting method so effective are:
- The high starting volume of materials.
- The 30:1 ratio of carbon to nitrogen.
- The regular aeration of the pile.
To make a hot compost pile, you’ll need:
- A space that’s 5-feet long, 10-feet wide, and 5-feet high
- A tarp or plastic sheet for covering the pile
- A hose and water for wetting the pile
- A pitchfork
- A compost thermometer or cake thermometer
- ⅔ “brown” materials and ⅓ “green” materials
- Blood and bone
To make hot compost, gather your materials and enough brown and green ingredients to construct a pile that is three feet wide, three feet long, and five feet high. Create a “compost cake” by adding alternating brown and green layers and hosing each layer down with water. To maintain the ideal carbon-to-nitrogen ratio, the green layers should be no more than two inches thick. Once you’re done, cover the pile and leave it for three or four days before turning the pile, then turn the pile every two days until the process is complete.
When you’re making hot compost, remember to check the temperature of the middle of the pile with a compost thermometer or cake thermometer. If the stack is too cold, add some blood and bone with each pitchfork when you turn the pile. If the stack is too hot, add some sawdust with each pitchfork during turning.
Vermicomposting is another way to make compost easily that uses the help of earthworms to do the job. While this “cold” method takes a little longer to complete the process, it doesn’t require turning a pile and provides the added benefit of earthworms that you can sell or use to make more vermicompost. This method uses similar “brown” and “green” materials to a Berkley hot compost pile and the bacteria and pathogens are killed in the worms’ gut — producing non-toxic, nutrient-rich humus that’s perfect for adding to potted plants, garden beds, orchards, and fields.
To make a vermicomposting system, you’ll need:
- A worm box or worm bin
- Redworms (Lumbricus rubellus) or brandling worms (Eisenia foetida)
- Bedding materials (sawdust, leaves, straw, non-glossy newspapers, compost)
- Organic food waste (no dairy, meat, bones, or pesticides)
- Worm castings, humus, dead worms (optional)
Worms can typically eat their body weight in food each day, and two pounds of earthworms are recommended for each pound of scraps that you want to compost. To make compost with worms, prepare the worm box with a mixture of bedding materials, add the earthworms, place a small amount of organic food waste on top, and cover the bin to provide shade. The vermicomposting box needs to be kept damp but not wet and needs adequate drainage to prevent it from becoming saturated.
3. Bokashi Compost
This third kind of compost has become increasingly popular because it can help to break down many of the types of waste that can’t be added to a worm farm or regular cold compost heap. Rather than decomposing your food waste like a traditional compost, a bokashi system (meaning “to ferment” in Japanese) ferments the scraps through an anaerobic (oxygen-deprived) process and makes them suitable for digging into trenches or adding to other kinds of compost to finish decomposing completely.
To make bokashi compost, you will need:
- An airtight bucket with a compartment for drainage
- A medium such as bran mixed with molasses
- Effective microorganismos (EM)
Typically, these materials are available as a complete bokashi kit that is ready to use in your home, balcony, or garden, and is capable of fermenting meat and dairy as well as fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, eggshells, and the other ingredients of traditional cold compost.
Elevate Your Growing with Fruit Growers Supply Company
At Fruit Growers Supply Company, we are dedicated to making sustainability more accessible to California growers — no matter which approach you take to farming. If you would like to start making compost with the waste products produced on your farm, orchard, or in your home, we offer top-quality niche gardening products to help you build your system with success. Our industrial corrugated produce packaging is also recyclable and compostable at the end of its life — perfect for adding carbon to your hot compost or to use as bedding in your worm farm!
Drop by or call one of our full-service stores in Orange Cove, Woodlake, Riverside, Porterville, or Santa Paula to ask all of your small or large-scale composting questions and to find the perfect tools for the job.