What is composting? Basically, dead organic materials are enzymatically converted to recycled fertilizer for our plants through a series of aerobic decomposition processes. Composting is defined as “a mixture that consists of decayed matter and is used for fertilizing and conditioning land” (Merriam-Webster). Compost has been a staple of agriculture for eons. With the advent of synthetic fertilizers in past decades, farmers have strayed away from the use of compost as an essential component of cultivation practice. Luckily some cities and municipalities have made composting not only commonplace, but a requirement of law.
What can be composted? Nearly everything biological in origin. Since every living creature dies, biological remains are constantly reintegrated back into the environment. This is the ultimate closed-loop system. We are replicating this process on a much smaller scale every time we compost. Compost moves through three distinct phases: mesophilic, thermophilic, and maturation. The takeaway here: let it rest, turn. Let it cook, turn. Repeat.
For our purposes, we want to look at composting from the essential needs of plants: three macronutrients (nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium); and 17 micronutrients (sulphur, zinc, molybdenum, boron, iron, copper, etc). Many of these basic ingredients can be replenished through a composting or vermiposting process.
When determining the inputs for our composting process, we should look at the origin of the inputs. Ask yourself: “Where did the input come from?” If the input came from a carnivorous mammal (i.e. dogs, cats, or humans), then it probably is not suitable for our compost as their feces can make compost toxic. Dairy products, oils, fats, and meats can turn compost rancid. The best composts often come from other plant materials – leaves, fruits, soft vegetation, etc. The point is that you should be careful where you source your input materials when composting. If somebody wants to discuss the finer points of bokashi, compost teas, or super soils, then by all means let’s have that discussion.
Compost teas are extracted mixes of compostable material that have been mixed in water and are either aerated or not, depending on the inputs. A further discussion on the benefits and drawbacks of aeration can follow.