Composting is the process of breaking down organic matter, such as food scraps, yard waste, wood, and other natural materials, into a nutrient-rich soil amendment. Composting is an eco-friendly way to reduce waste and create a sustainable source of fertilizer for plants. However, not all compost is created equally, and understanding the different types of compost and their properties is essential to creating the best quality compost.
There are two main types of compost: bacterial-dominant and fungal-dominant.
Bacterial-dominant compost is typically created through a hot composting process, which involves turning the compost pile regularly to increase oxygen levels and promote the growth of thermophilic bacteria. This type of compost is high in nitrogen and other nutrients making it ideal for promoting plant growth. It is particularly beneficial for leafy green vegetables, such as lettuce, spinach, and kale, as well as for annual plants that require a lot of nitrogen to produce flowers and fruit. Bacteria-dominant compost can also be used to improve the soil structure, as it encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria that help break down organic matter and release nutrients into the soil. There are dozens of use cases where this could be useful. Applying a healthy layer of bacteria-dominant compost and top-dressing it with a layer of wood chips can help rapidly increase organic matter on bald spots in your pasture, you can use bacteria-dominant compost to rapidly break down waste or moldy hay if your waste pile is getting too large, you can also use a little bit of fresh bacteria dominant compost to jump-start a new compost pile.
Bacteria-dominant compost can also be used as a tea or liquid fertilizer, which is made by steeping the compost in aerated water for a day. This tea can be used to water plants or sprayed onto foliage, providing a quick and easy nutrient boost. Additionally, bacteria-dominant compost can be added to compost tea recipes to help increase the microbial diversity and nutrient content of the tea. One of the most beneficial uses of bacteria-dominant compost tea is to replenish dead soil on cropland that has been heavily sprayed with high nitrogen fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides, and pesticides, by either treating your seed prior to planting or spike aerating your fields with a compost tea drip you can rapidly increase the active bacteria count in your soil.
Overall, bacteria-dominant compost is a versatile and nutrient-rich soil amendment that can be used in a variety of ways to promote healthy plant growth and improve soil health.
Fungal-dominant compost is created through a slow composting process, which involves allowing the compost pile to sit undisturbed for several months with good access to oxygen, it contains a diverse range of beneficial fungi, making it an excellent soil amendment for improving soil structure and promoting long-term plant health. Fungal-dominant compost is particularly beneficial for perennial plants, such as fruit trees, shrubs, and ornamental plants, as well as for plants that require well-draining soil.
One of the best uses for fungal dominant compost is to use it as a pre-treatment for seeds prior to planting or leeched in with a spike aerator on pastures, the beneficial fungi in the compost can form symbiotic relationships with plant roots, which help to improve nutrient uptake and overall plant health. This tea is made using a compost extractor and it’s truly surprising how little fungal dominant compost is needed to make an extract. Typical application rates are 8 gallons an acre of extract and it takes only 1 pound of compost to make 4 gallons of extract. There is an average of 25 lbs of fungal dominant compost in a 5-gallon bucket so one 5-gallon bucket can make 100 gallons, enough to do 12.5 acres.
Fungal-dominant compost can also be used as a mulch, which helps to retain soil moisture, suppress weeds, and improve soil fertility over time. The compost can be spread around the base of plants, trees, and shrubs, or used to cover garden beds and pathways.
Overall, fungal dominant compost is a versatile soil amendment that can be used in a variety of ways to improve soil health and promote long-term plant growth as well.
Other composting information
Temperature is an essential factor in the composting process, as it affects the activity of the microorganisms that break down the organic matter. During the initial stages of composting, the temperature can rise as high as 160°F (71°C), which kills off pathogens and weed seeds. As the composting process continues, the temperature will gradually decrease, and the microorganisms that thrive in cooler temperatures will take over. Therefore, it’s important to monitor the temperature of the compost pile regularly to ensure that it is at the ideal temperature range for the microorganisms to thrive.
Composting is not limited to just food scraps and yard waste. Many materials can be composted, including sawdust, coffee grounds, and eggshells. However, it’s important to note that some materials should not be composted, such as meat, dairy, and bones. These materials can attract pests and slow down the composting process. Also, paper or cardboard should not be used in food production composts as most paper products have been treated with anti-fungal chemicals which can affect your compost and leech into your food system. Additionally, it’s important to maintain the proper ratio of nitrogen-rich materials, such as food scraps and grass clippings, to carbon-rich materials, such as leaves and wood chips. Carbon-to-nitrogen ratios will vary depending on the type of compost you are making.
In addition to bacterial and fungal dominant compost, there are also other types of compost, such as vermicompost and bokashi compost. Vermicomposting involves using worms to break down the organic matter, and the resulting compost is high in nutrients and beneficial microorganisms. You can include worms in almost any compost once it has cooled to give it a little extra kick as well. Bokashi composting is a fermentation process that uses an inoculated bran to break down the organic matter, which is then buried in the soil to continue the composting process.
In summary, not all compost is created equally, and understanding the different types of compost and their properties is essential to not only creating high-quality compost but also what type of compost you should make for your specific application. Understanding the different types of compost, their uses, and how they are made are just a few of the things a regenerative agriculture consultant can help you learn to best utilize compost in your operation in place of agricultural chemicals. The type of compost, the temperature of the compost pile, and the types of materials used all play a role in creating nutrient-rich soil amendments that can be used to promote plant growth and improve soil health. By understanding the science behind composting, we can create a more sustainable and agri-chemical-free world.
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