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Everything You Need to Know About Aerobic Composting

Aerobic composting

Most people interested in sustainability, growing their own food, and general gardening and lawn care will have heard about composting. Turning your food and yard scraps into compost is a great way to divert waste from landfill and get great soil conditioners for free.

But did you know that there are two different types of composting: aerobic and anaerobic? If you didn’t, then you’re in luck. Read on as we explain the ins and outs of aerobic composting. 

See Also: Best Compost Tumblers of 2022

What is Aerobic Composting?

Aerobic composting is the process of breaking down organic matter through decomposition by micro-organisms that require oxygen to live. This form of composting occurs in environments where oxygen is present and readily available. The breakdown of materials in this process produces carbon dioxide (CO2). These micro-organisms include things like bacteria, fungi, protozoa, as well as worms, nematodes, and other insects. These are all naturally found in the environment, and ‘rot’ down organic materials as part of normal environmental cycles like the carbon and the nitrogen cycle

composting and vermiculture

By using aerobic composting methods, we can feed the microorganisms in the compost our garden and kitchen waste products. This process results in nutrient-rich humus, a great soil conditioner for lawns and gardens. 

This can be done at home with basic compost heaps and piles, or with commercially available compost tumblers and worm farms

What Are the Benefits of Aerobic Composting?

Aerobic composting is the simplest and most inexpensive method of decomposition. Believe it or not, it is occurring in your garden at this very moment.  

Aerobic Composting Occurs Naturally!

Every time something organic drops to the ground, it is slowly broken down by natural processes over time. Aerobic composting is the most common natural process and is easy for us to mimic at home. Simply piling up your green waste into a heap will start a compost pile. This will eventually break down the waste into a soil-like material. Mix the pile periodically to replenish the oxygen and help the microorganisms do their thing.

Easy to Scale Up Compost Production

Ramping up production using a compost container or tumbler is also easy. Doing so can allow you to get through a lot more waste and produce a lot more compost for your garden. This is because compost tumblers are designed to help accelerate the process. Tumbling essentially makes the physical mixing of the compost much easier. They also allow for higher temperatures to build up inside, which also accelerates the process.

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Reduces Waste Going to Landfill

Aerobic composting recycles your waste products, diverting them from ending up in a landfill. This helps you retain the carbon and nitrogen in your garden and reduce methane production in landfills. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that is produced when organic material breaks down anaerobically.

Free Plant Food!

Aerobic composting also benefits your gardens through the compost product that it produces. Good compost will enhance your soil and can aid in aeration, moisture retention, and overall plant health. Incorporating a few inches of compost over your soil once or twice a year will do wonders for your plants. 

aerobic compost on plants

Are There Any Negatives of Aerobic Composting at Home?

Whilst aerobic composting is the most common decomposition process, it does require certain conditions in order to occur. For aerobic composting to be possible, you need the correct moisture content, temperature, and airflow. When the right conditions can’t be met, then the process may not occur or may occur at a much slower rate. 

Can Cost Money…

If you want to accelerate the composting process, you may need to spend a bit of money building compost piles or buying containers for worm farms. This means there is a cost if you want to capitalize on making the most of what is essentially a naturally occurring phenomenon. 

There May Be Better Aerobic Composting Facilities Available

Depending on where you live and what your waste management facilities are like, you may also be better off sorting your green waste for collection by waste services. Some local governments and municipalities have excellent green waste collection and treatment facilities. Most are designed to recycle all of the organic waste of an urban area and sell it back as compost. If this is the case, then you might be doing more harm to the environment by composting poorly at home than you would be by having your waste collected and composted at a specialized facility.

Why Would I Want to Start Aerobic Composting?

There are plenty of reasons to start composting. For one, you can reduce your waste footprint by diverting organic waste away from landfills. 

You also get the bonus of producing a beneficial product for your home garden which can improve the micro-biodiversity of your yard. Using compost will improve your soil health and structure, and can help to improve the health and yield of the plants in your gardens. 

Composting is also a great educational hobby for families with young kids. Teach them about the benefits of composting from a young age so that they may grow up as environmentally conscious citizens.

aerobic compost food scraps

How Do I Start Aerobic Composting?

If you’re not sure you want to commit to aerobic composting, then it’s best to start small.

Build Your Own Compost Pile for Aerobic Composting

Dedicate a section of your yard to composting, and slowly add your garden and lawn clippings, scrap cardboard and paper, and kitchen scraps to a pile over time. Eventually, the pile will shrink and you’ll start to notice that everything has begun to look more like soil. If you want to keep your pile more structured, you can use lengths of timber to build a frame to contain the compost. As the pile grows, you’ll want to use a pitchfork to turn the compost. This allows oxygen to flow through the pile, which is essential for aerobic composting.

Buy A Compost Tumbler or Worm Farm

If you enjoy the process and want to get more involved, then you can look into purchasing compost containers, tumblers, or worm farms. These take a bit more effort to get going, so be sure to research them before you dive in. Check out our beginners’ guide to worm farming here for more info on starting a worm farm.

Aerobic Compost Troubleshooting

If the conditions aren’t right for aerobic composting, you may notice that the process takes longer than expected. You may even find that some items in your pile haven’t broken down as much as others. 

Low temperatures and/or excessively dry compost can make it difficult for the microorganisms to thrive. Too much water may also mean that there’s not enough oxygen available, and conditions will begin to turn anaerobic. This is usually indicated by pungent-smelling compost. 

If you are aerobic composting using worm farms, then maintaining the right conditions becomes really important. If conditions develop outside certain ranges, the worms will either not feed, reproduce, or just simply die. 

To help keep the conditions in your aerobic compost pile ideal, be sure to regularly aerate and turn over piles. It’s also important to ensure that the moisture levels don’t get too damp as this can prevent oxygen from circulating. Using a mixture of ‘ingredients’ of different shapes, sizes, and materials will help improve the biodiversity of your compost pile. 

And There You Have It…

Aerobic composting is a great way to recycle your organic waste and provide a soil conditioner for your plants. It’s generally a simple process to set up but be sure to check the conditions from time to time to ensure optimum performance.

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