Compost - Healthy Nutrition for Plants
Usually people say that every good gardener should have a compost pile. Production of your own compost does not require special skills or efforts from gardeners and costs almost free. Moreover, it undoubtedly saves strength, money and time for the purchase of other fertilizers, for watering and weeding, as well as for garbage removal, since garden and kitchen waste will go directly to the compost heap. Let's figure out where to start.
What is compost?
Composts (from lat. Compositus - compound) - organic fertilizers resulting from the decomposition of various organic substances under the influence of the activity of microorganisms.
When composting in organic matter, the content of nutrients available to plants (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and others) increases, pathogenic microflora and helminth eggs are neutralized, the amount of cellulose, hemicellulose and pectin substances decreases (they cause the transition of soluble forms of soil nitrogen and phosphorus to organic plants less digestible by plants forms), fertilizer becomes loose, which facilitates its introduction into the soil.
Composts are used for all crops, in approximately the same doses as manure (1.5-4 kg / sq. M). They are brought in a couple (which means scattered on a freshly plowed field, for example, before planting potatoes), under autumn finland plowing and plowing, in the holes when planting seedlings. Compost composts are not inferior to manure in fertilizing properties, and some of them (for example, peat moss with phosphorite flour) surpass it.
The benefits of compost
Garden compost is good and beneficial in every sense. For plants, compost introduced into the soil is an excellent organic fertilizer, saturated with essential trace elements and humus. For the soil - a natural conditioner, a means of improving the structure of the soil, which has a loosening and moisture-preserving effect. Spread out on a soil surface, compost is an excellent organic mulch that inhibits weed growth and helps maintain moisture at the roots of plants.
Living inhabitants of the garden appreciate the compost pile. This is an excellent “dining room” for birds and small insectivorous animals, as well as a place for the mass dwelling and breeding of earthworms, which (along with bacteria and fungi) actually decompose organic matter, producing compost.
In the production of our own garden compost, there is no need to burn garden waste, old leaves, paper, packaging and cardboard, poisoning the surrounding atmosphere and neighbors with smoke. No need to buy synthetic fertilizers and high-quality garden soil. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the production and use of our own compost greatly facilitates the life of a gardener and contributes to the protection of the environment. Waste-free gardening and the use of garden compost instead of dangerous and expensive chemical fertilizers are important components of the concept of organic gardening.
Environmental factors affecting the decomposition of organics
The decomposition of organic substances is influenced by many factors, of which three main ones should be distinguished:
Compost production is dependent on oxygen availability. Aerobic decomposition means that active microbes in the heap need oxygen, while anaerobic decomposition means that active microbes do not need oxygen for life and growth. Temperature, humidity, bacterial population size, and nutrient availability determine the amount of oxygen needed for composting.
It is necessary to maintain high humidity in the compost heap (composter), but it is necessary to ensure air access for aerobic bacteria. Different materials have different water absorption capacity, and thus determine the amount of water required for composting. For example, wood and fiber materials such as bark, sawdust, shavings, hay or straw hold up to 75-85 percent moisture. Green fertilizers, such as lawn grass and plants, can hold 50-60 percent moisture.
The minimum moisture content at which the activity of microorganisms is manifested is 12-15 percent, the optimal is 60-70%. Obviously, the lower the humidity of the compost mass in the composter, the slower the compost formation process will occur. Experience has shown that humidity can be a limiting factor when it drops below 45-50%.
Temperature is an important factor in compost formation. Low external temperatures in winter slow down the decomposition process, and warm summer temperatures accelerate the process. In the warmer months of the year, intense microbiological activity inside the compost heap leads to compost formation at extremely high temperatures. Microbes that decompose organics are divided into two main categories: mesospheric, those that live and grow at a temperature of +10 .. + 45 ° C, and thermophilic, those that grow successfully at temperatures above 45 ° C.
Most compost heaps in the initial stages go through the thermophilic stage. At this stage, organic matter is quickly dehydrated and must be constantly kept moist and ventilated. The temperature inside the compost heap rises to +60 .. + 70 ° C, which contributes to the thermal neutralization of organic material. At this temperature, weed seeds and many pathogenic (phytopathogenic) microorganisms are destroyed. But do not forget that this effect is achieved, you need a sufficient amount of organic matter.
The next stage takes place at a temperature of about 40 ° C, while other microorganisms predominate and more complete decomposition of organic materials occurs.
At the last stage of compost formation, its temperature is equal to the ambient temperature, the smell of earth comes from the heap. The material is processed into humus.
The simplest and at the same time effective way to speed up the compost ripening process is to introduce special composting bacteria into the biomass, at the initial stage of preparation.
In this case, firstly, specially selected microorganisms begin to process biomass immediately and with great speed, and secondly, the smell of grass and other unpleasant odors practically disappears.
A quick way to compost
If you pile up the bark, tree branches, mowed grass, leaves ... and what else comes to hand in the garden, and leave it all for a while in a secluded corner (so as not to spoil the view), then in the end all this someday decays and turns into high-quality compost. It will only take several years for this process. This is the so-called slow (cold) method of compost production.
In contrast, the fast (hot) method takes about 3-6 months and it is provided by several indispensable conditions: air access, nitrogen, humidity and heat (the temperature in large industrial compost heaps can reach +85 ° С!).
1. You will need a wooden or plastic construction for compost production, installed in a specially designated place. The advantages of a wooden structure for compost production are that it allows air to pass through and maintains good ventilation. Such a design can be purchased in the garden center or made yourself. For a successful process, the volume of the wooden structure must be at least 1 m3 (1x1x1).
The plastic container, in turn, retains heat well and is more mobile; it can be used in various places in the garden. Any compost system should have an opening top or side surface (some plastic baskets do not have a bottom or this bottom is removable) for easy access to ready-made compost.
2. Place at the very bottom approximately 10 cm of coarse material - straw, hay, twigs or spruce branches. This is necessary to ensure drainage and air access.
3. Lay compost material in alternating layers. For example, on a layer of vegetable or fruit waste, put a layer of shredded paper, then a small layer of mowed grass, then a layer of dug up annuals, then a layer of last year's leaves and so on. It is important that the green (“wet and soft”) layers alternate with the brown (“dry and hard”) - this will provide ventilation, speed up the process, and in the future - a good texture of the finished compost. Never push or compact the contents; this will disrupt composting.
4. On top of each layer, you can add a little earth or rotted manure to herbivores to speed up the composting process. In the garden centers special “accelerators” of compost formation are sold, you can use them. The catalysts for the decomposition reaction are also freshly cut grass and legumes that collect nitrogen in their root system. Significantly improve the quality of the finished compost plants rich in useful substances: nettle, comfrey, yarrow, dandelion and others.
5. Keep your compost production system covered from above to maintain the correct moisture level and maintain heat. Plastic baskets usually already have the top, and for home-made wooden ones you can use garden wrap, a piece of an old palace or something else. The ideal temperature for compost production is +55 ° C.
6. From time to time, the contents should be turned over to allow air to flow into the resulting compost.
Rotary composters are a relatively recent invention.. Such structures allow compost to be generated in a short time (according to the manufacturers in 2-4 weeks) due to the uniform distribution of material and heat inside the container. The gardener is only required to rotate the structure twice a day, which is not difficult to do with the help of a special handle. The volume of this model is 340 liters.
7. In dry weather (in open boardwalk systems) or when brown materials prevail in the contents of the compost heap, the necessary compost moisture should be maintained by irrigation. Avoid stagnation of water in the compost system, this will disrupt the decomposition process.
8. Unpleasant odors from the contents of the compost basket indicate that something is broken and the process is going wrong. The smell of ammonia (ammonia) or rotten eggs indicates an excessive amount of nitrogen-containing (green) substances in the compost heap and a lack of oxygen. In this case, carbon-containing (brown) materials must be added.
If you did everything right, then after a few months the contents of the compost heap should acquire a brown color and a fresh, sweetish smell of earth - signs that your compost is ready for use in the garden. If you filled the system gradually (which is most likely with continuous production), then you should start choosing the finished compost from the bottom. Higher layers will thus move down, making room at the top for new material.
Discarded by trees and shrubs foliage, decomposing, enriches the soil with humus. To prepare the leaf humus, it is convenient to use a mesh box (the same as for compost), each layer of foliage 13-20 cm thick is moistened with a solution of ammonium sulfate. In autumn, foliage and fertilizer layers are also placed in black, perforated (for air access) bags that do not take up much space.
Tied bags are left in a remote corner of the garden, and by spring a humus forms in them. Leaves left in open crates in the open air take longer to decompose. For composting, foliage of any deciduous trees and shrubs is used. The leaves of the plane tree, poplar and maple decompose longer than the leaves of oak and beech. The leaves of evergreens are unsuitable for making humus. Leaf humus is embedded in soil or used as mulch.
In a properly designed and filled box, compost does not require tedding, since the material is already subject to effective decomposition. In spring and summer, ripening is faster than in autumn and winter. When laying in warm weather, compost is ready for use within six months. The condition of the heap is periodically checked and, if possible, the ripened compost is removed from the base.
The finished compost has a brown color and a friable finely crumbly structure. Undecomposed material serves as the basis for laying the next pile. Mulching is carried out only with well-ripened compost, since in partially decomposed weed seeds capable of germination can be preserved. Compost is planted in the soil during cultivation in autumn and winter at the rate of 5.5 kg / m2.
What goes into compost
- Raw vegetables, fruits, cereals, coffee tea
- Leftover cooked food (in a closed system)
- Meat waste (in a closed system)
- Unpainted ground wood
- Hay, straw
- Wood ash
- Overripe manure of herbivores
- Fresh manure of herbivores (in slow heaps)
- Shredded natural paper (napkins, bags, packaging, cardboard)
- Shredded natural fabrics
- Thin branches after pruning trees and shrubs
- Thick branches shredded in a garden shredder, wood, bark and roots
- Last year (half-ripe) leaves
- Mowed grass from the lawn
- Young weeds
- Sea or freshwater algae
- Other organic garden waste
What does NOT go to compost
- Large and hard meat bones
- Pet toilet
- Dry leaves of the current season
- Pruning evergreens
- Flowering and perennial rhizome weeds
- Diseases affected by diseases and pests
- Pests, their eggs and larvae
- Waste after use of herbicides (unless otherwise indicated by the manufacturer of the herbicide)
Waiting for your advice!