Destroys Pathogens

  • Can destroy human disease organisms
  • Can destroy plant pathogens
  • Can destroy livestock pathogens

SAVES MONEY

  • Can be used to produce food
  • Can eliminate waste disposal costs
  • Reduces the need for water, fertilizers, and pesticides
  • Can be sold at a profit
  • Extends landfill life by diverting materials
  • Is a less costly bioremediation technique

Source: U.S. EPA (October 1997). Compost-New Applications for an Age-Old Technology. EPA530-F-97-l 047. And author's experience. j

However, the microorganisms can simply wait until the temperature rises enough for them to thaw out and then they'll work feverishly. If you have room, you can continue to add material to a frozen compost pile. After a thaw, the pile should work up a steam as if nothing happened.

4) Balanced Diet

A good blend of materials (a good carbon/nitrogen balance in compost lingo) is required for a nice, hot compost pile. Since most of the materials commonly added to a backyard compost pile are high in carbon, a source of nitrogen must be incorporated into the blend of ingredients. This isn't as difficult as it may seem. You can carry bundles of weeds to your compost pile, add hay, straw, leaves and food scraps, but you may still be short on nitrogen. Of course the solution is simple — add manure. Where can you get manure? From an animal. Where can you find an animal? Look in a mirror.

Rodale states in The Complete Book of Composting that the average gardener may have difficulty in obtaining manure for the compost heap, but with "a little ingenuity and a thorough search," it can be found. A gardener in the book testifies that when he gets "all steamed up to build myself a good compost pile, there has always been one big question that sits and thumbs its nose at me: Where am I going to find, the manure? I am willing to bet, too, that the lack of manure is one of the reasons why your compost pile is not the thriving humus factory that it might be."

Hmmm. Where can a large animal like a human being find manure? Gee, that's a tough one. Let's think real hard about that. Perhaps with a little "ingenuity and a thorough search" we can come up with a source. Where is that mirror, anyway? Might be a clue there.

THE CARBON/NITROGEN RATIO

One way to understand the blend of ingredients in your compost pile is by using the C/N ratio (carbon/nitrogen ratio). Quite frankly, the chance of the average person measuring and monitoring the carbon and nitrogen quantities of her organic material is almost nil. If composting required this sort of drudgery, no one would do it.

However, by using all of the organic refuse a family produces, including humanure, urine, food refuse, weeds from the garden, and grass clippings, with some materials from the larger agricultural community such as a little straw or hay, and maybe some rotting sawdust or some collected leaves from the municipality, one can get a good mix of carbon and nitrogen for successful thermophilic composting.

A good C/N ratio for a compost pile is between 20/1 and 35/1.16 That's 20 parts of carbon to one part of nitrogen, up to 35 parts of carbon to one part of nitrogen. Or, for simplicity, you can figure on shooting for an optimum 30/1 ratio.

For microorganisms, carbon is the basic building block of life and is a source of energy, but nitrogen is also necessary for such things as proteins, genetic material and cell structure. For a balanced diet, microorganisms that digest compost need about 30 parts of carbon for every part of nitrogen they consume. If there's too much nitrogen, the microorganisms can't use it all and the excess is lost in the form of smelly ammonia gas. Nitrogen loss due to excess nitrogen in a compost pile (a low C/N ratio) can be over 60%. At a C/N ratio of 30 or 35 to 1, only one half of one percent of the nitrogen will be lost (see Table 3.1). That's why you don't want too much nitrogen in your compost — the nitrogen will be lost to the air in the form of ammonia gas, and nitrogen is too valuable for plants to allow it to escape into the atmosphere.17

Table 3.2

CARBON/NITROGEN RATIOS

Material Activated Sldg. Amaranth Apple Pomace Blood Bread Cabbage Cardboard Coffee Grnds. Cow Manure Corn Cobs Corn Stalks Cottonseed Ml. Cranberry Plant Farm Manure Fern

Fish Scrap Fruit

Garbage (Raw)

Grass Clippings

Hardwood Bark

Hardwoods (Avg)

Hay (General)

Hay (legume)

Hen Manure

Horse Manure

Humanure

Leaves

Lettuce

Meat Scraps

Mussel Resid.

Mustard

Newsprint

Oat Straw

Olive Husks

Onion

Paper

Pepper

Pig Manure

Potato Tops

Poultry Carcasses

Purslane

Raw Sawdust

C/N Ratio

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