To create a whole farm system of
self-renewing fertility the creation of biologically active compost will be part of the farm's annual rhythm.
Compost is one of the key living energies of the whole farm, providing nutrients and helpful microorganisms to all of the plants growing onsite.
Healthy compost contains bacteria, fungi, ciliates, protozoa, amoebas, microflagellates, microarthropods, arthropods, nematodes, earthworms, and more – billions of creatures in every handful.
It also contains nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, calcium, sulphur, iron, sodium, magnesium, zinc, and other micronutrients that are important for healthy plant growth. The living biology of the soil holds and cycles the nutrients, making it available to plants exactly when they need it.
Compost will be added on a yearly basis to many growing areas, so producing an adequate supply of highquality material onsite is essential.
There are many effective methods for creating compost on the farm scale. The goal of all them is to create the ideal conditions for the oxygen rich (aerobic) decomposition of organic materials into a seething mass of beneficial microorganisms and plant feeding nutrients.
In all of the different methods, the goal is to create a final product that has a ratio of carbon to nitrogen in the range of
25/30 : 1.
It is important to include
the greatest possible diversity
of materials in the pile.
Each initial feedstock has it’s own associated microbiology, and the greater the diversity of inputs, the more functionally diverse the product will be.
Experiment with each of the following methods to determine which one fits with the input materials available onsite, the amount of management required, and the desired product.
Berkeley 18-day Hot Compost
It can be done by hand or with a tractor. It is fast and furious, and requires consistent labor attention throughout the composting process. The benefit is that it is very fast, and produces a highquality product if properly managed.
This method works in any climate
at any time of year.
No-Turn Cold Compost
The basic idea is to layer the correct ratio of carbon and nitrogen inputs on top of each other over time, and wait (up to 2 years) for the compost to slowly decompose.
This simple composting method is ideal
when not all of the ingredients for a larger pile
are available at the same time.
Finished Compost shall be fully decomposed organic material derived from food, agricultural residues, animal manures, and other organic materials. It has a humus nature capable of sustaining growth of vegetation, with no material toxic to plant growth.
The color resembles dark topsoil and the structure is light and crumbly. It is air temperature and does not release steam when disturbed. The odor is agreeable, like fresh earthy forest soil, with no offensive odors such as ethanol, vinegar, ammonia, or sulfur.
Finished compost shall have the following properties:
• The moisture content is between 30% and 50%,
• No weed seeds or pathogens are present.
• pH between 5.5 7.5
• Carbon to Nitrogen ratio of 2530:1
• Organic matter >75%
• Particle size: Varied, 0.01 0.25 inches,
no recognizable starting materials present
• Soluble salts <3.0 mmhos (dS)
• Bulk density <1000 lbs/cy
• Foreign matter <0.1% by weight