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Pile composting

  •   September 29th, 2014
  •   Category: News, Composting
  •   Posted by: Ecodyger
pile compost

This composting technique is the closest one to the natural process, used by those who own a garden in which set up a pile. With this technique, it is possible to compost huge quantities of material.

It is necessary to choose the most suitable place where to set up the pile. Normally, the ideal place is the one close to a plant with large leaves (broadleaf); in fact, during summer time its shadow covers the pile, while in winter, losing its leaves, let sun rays filter.

In the place where the pile will be set up, it is important to prepare a substratum made of draining material, like branches and gardening residue or, after the first year of composting, eventual residuals coming from the screening (control and selection) of mature compost.

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How to prepare a pile

Among the material that can be used to produce compost, there are a few that are very rich in ozone, while others are rich in carbon. A fundamental rule for the pile preparation is to mix these two types of discards so that the carbon – ozone rate is around 25/1, max 30/1. This means that for every 1 of ozone, 30 of carbon must be added.

The following table points out the richest material regarding ozone and carbon, with the related rate.

pilecompostmaterialstableen

The table makes easy to understand that a pile made of just straw will have too high C/O rate, while a pile made of cut grass will have a too low rate.

Furthermore, leftovers rich in ozone are characterized by high humidity while those rich in carbon are drier.

A good mix of both discards allows to adjust the C/O rate and in the same time to obtain an optimal humidity rate (50/60%).

The mixing of the two discard types and most of all the presence of material such as branches, dry leaves, cardboard, allows air to pass and therefore creates oxygen. In technical terms, a good porosity of the pile is created.

Before adding material to the pile

We must underline that woody material and those of certain dimensions, before being put in the pile, must be shredded.

This will facilitate the action of degradation on this material by micro-organisms that, otherwise, would be very slow (2 or 3 composting cycles).

The shredding operation can be done with a machete or shears, but if there’s a lot of material and short time, it is possible to use proper machinery called bio-shredders.

The form of the pile is a rectangular pyramid with a height of 50/60 cm. The length depends on the material.

Turning

In case of pile composting, the continuous presence of oxygen is normally guaranteed by the right mix of ozone and carbon rich material (most of all wood). In any case, it would be useful to program also turning operation of the pile every two weeks. For this operation, a pitchfork is advised.

This is also a perfect way to homogenize temperature and humidity values. Mixing the material, in fact, will erase those zones with too high or too low temperature or humidity.

Humidity and ideal temperature

For what concerns humidity, it can be measured in a very easy way: take a certain quantity of material and hold it in the fist. An ideal humidity rate will leave the hand slightly wet. If the material does not wet the hand, then it is too dry. Otherwise, if pressing the material will cause liquid to come out, then it is too humid.

To avoid too low humidity, wet the material with a watering can. If it is too wet, add dry material to loose the exceeding water.

In case of heavy rain, cover the pile with jute bags.

Again, to adjust water infiltration in the pile, it is useful to set up the pile as a pyramid with a rectangular base during the most rainy period (so that water runs on the side) while during summer time give it a keystone with a flat peak form to allow infiltration.

For what concerns temperature, it is hardly adjustable. The pile position (shadow in summer and sun in winter), periodic turning and eventual covering systems during colder periods should not let it reach extreme high or low temperature.

Time management and use of composting pile

Pile composting is made with one of the following cycles:

Winter cycle, from September/October until March and a summer cycle from April to August. At the end of these two periods, it is possible to start the screening operations, putting aside the freshest material.

In the summer cycle, the best time for preparation and pile management could be spring time, using discards rich in carbon collected during fall-winter time.

Continue to add fresh material mixing them with those already in the pile until mid fall, depending on the season temperature. The obtained compost will be still rich in nutrients and poor in humus, therefore suitable for spreading on fields and gardens, but not in direct contact with roots and away from sowings.

In the winter cycle, although the low external activity, the process in the pile is continuous and it is possible to add fresh material like kitchen leftovers and gardening scraps. The pile will be covered with jute sheet or a 5-10 cm thick layer of leaves and straw to avoid drying and will not have to be subjected to frequent checking and turning. The obtained compost will be more mature and usable also before sowings. To use it as fertilizer for plants, it would be useful to leave it maturate for a few months. The maturation phase can be done without any activity, although the covering in case of abundant rain shall be done.

Screening

Before the use on the fields and most off all in vase, it is necessary to apply to the compost a screening process (sifting) in order to eliminate big material not decomposed. The reside from screening can be also use as sub-layer for a new pile.

Advantages

  • Easy turning
  • The new waste is “hidden”, which can be an advantage for those who have a small garden close to neighbors. A well made pile and carefully taken care of does not cause any odor related problem and also can be nice to see: it offers a tidy idea of waste management in harmony with natural cycles. One must be proud of his pile!

Inconveniences and solutions

  • Bad odors: are cause by ozone excess and absence of oxygen. In the first case it will be necessary to add brown material to the pile which will reduce the C/O rate, humidity and will improve porosity. If this kind of material is lacking, it is necessary to proceed with the turning of the pile’s material more often (each week). In the second case, turn the pile to add oxygen to those zone where is lacking. Also, add carbon rich dry materials which will better the pile’s porosity.
  • Presence of bugs on the pile: they are attracted by fresh material inverted on the pile and in direct contact with the outside. To avoid this inconvenient, just cover fresh material with material already in the pile. The aesthetic of the pile will improve as well.
  • Rats and other animals: usually they are attracted by the presence of protein origin material in the pile. If this material are put in reduced quantity in the pile and immediately covered with material already in it, then their presence should not happen.
  • Water stagnation at the pile base: these could cause bad odors and the presence of mosquitoes. To avoid them, improve the drain layer on the base.

“Hole” version

Just for your information , we conclude by saying that a variant of the pile is the hole which has a tendency to accumulate water, especially if it is waterproof on the bottom.

In the hole there is insufficient exchange of oxygen with the outside, because only the upper band of the accumulated waste is in contact with the air. So it is more likely that the lower portions of the deposited material have lack of oxygen and will rot.

compostaggio in buca

Ecodyger Vs Pile Composting

Today it is possible to compost also in absence of green areas and, while eliminating all the disadvantages of these two systems. With Ecodyger.

Ecodyger is a new technology that allows you to manage your wet waste directly within the walls of your home or business. In a few hours you will get a good compost, while eliminating odors , the presence of insects and unwanted animals such as rats and rodents.

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(Cover photo, Ruth Hartnup Flickr)