In the last couple of months I have been talking about traditional composting which is also called hot composting. For this method, you pile up the ingredients and keep turning them so the pile gets hot. There are several other types of composting such as bokashi composting, cold composting, vermicomposting, compost tea and making leaf mold. How do these methods compare to traditional composting and do they offer any advantages? In this post I will look at some other options you might want to consider.
Vermicomposting uses a bin, organic material and worms. The worms eat the organic material and produce worm castings ie worm poop. The worm castings are then added to the garden.
Although it is called composting, it is not really a form of composting. It should be called vermidigestion, not vermicomposting. However, the end result is a form of degraded organic matter. How similar is it to compost? I have not been able to find an answer to this question.
Since the process usually takes place in a container, it is suitable for small amounts of organic matter, but I doubt it is very practical for large quantities of yard waste. At least one popular vermicomposting site (ref 1) does not recommend vermicomposting for yard waste.
The worms need to be kept warm, so in cold climates the warms need to be kept indoors.
I think this might be useful for taking care of kitchen scraps, but wormicomposting does not seem to be suitable for the yard waste produced by gardeners.
Bokashi composting has been discussed before in Bokashi Composting Myths. Bokashi is a way to ferment your kitchen wastes, and even though it is called bokashi composting, it is not a form of composting, . Once the kitchen waste is fermented, the material still needs to be composted using a real composting method.
The process is not suitable for yard waste.
Cold composting is similar to hot composting. You build a pile of material and then leave it alone. You can turn the pile if you want, which does speed up the process. You can spend time getting the browns and greens just right – but you don’t have to. Basically, you just let the pile sit and rot. It is slower than hot composting but eventually you do get compost. Without getting to a high temperature, weed seeds and diseases are less likely to be killed.
This system works well, is less complicated and less work than hot composting.
I suspect most people who think they are doing hot composting are actually doing a form of cold composting because their piles are not getting hot enough.
Compost Tea has been discussed before in my blog post called Compost Tea. I have not found any good scientific evidence that shows compost tea is better than compost alone. In any event, the tea is made using finished compost so it is not really a composting process. It is a different way to use compost.
Leaf Mold is made by piling up leaves in the fall, and leaving them alone. A cold form of composting takes place. Because the pile only contains browns, there is a shortage of nitrogen. This causes two things to happen. The process is slow, and decomposition is done primarily by fungi, not bacteria.
The result of the process is material very similar to what you get out of a hot compost pile and it is just as good for the garden.
Composting – Which Method is Best?
The best method of composting is the one that you do and continue to do because you like doing it. Any form of composting is better than taking yard waste to the curb.
In a home with no garden, vermicomposting seems to be a good idea that would be worth trying.
If you have a garden, cold composting of yard waste and leaves seems to be the best method presented so far. It is very flexible, and requires little work.
I have tried hot composting and it works. Trying to get high temperatures was too much work for me, so I switched to cold composting. When I moved to my large garden, hauling yard waste over 5 acres was too much work, so I invented the Cut and Drop Composting Method. I think it is the best composting method if your time is a consideration. I’ll discuss this in the next post.
1) Vermicomposting yard waste: http://www.redwormcomposting.com/reader-questions/vermicomposting-yard-wastes/
2) Photo Source: Alfredo Eloisa