Essential Elements for Composting
These essential elements for composting must be present if you are to be successful.
There are four essential ingredients necessary for composting, that is to say four main elements, which are crucial if the process of aerobic composting is to take place.
Nitrogen Carbon Oxygen Water
The first of the essential elements for composting, Nitrogen, is found in the green-waste that you add to your compost and it provides the protein that is needed by the resident micro-organisms. Green-waste includes grass clippings, kitchen waste (not dairy or meat) green trimmings from the garden, coffee grounds and tea leaves. Seaweed, some manures, kelp and blood and bone are also rich sources of nitrogen.
Carbon, the second of the essential elements for composting, provides the calories needed by the micro-organisms – the energy needed for them to keep working. Carbon is found in the brown-waste – dry leaves, twigs, hay, sawdust and wood chips. Make sure the wood is untreated, as chemicals found in treated wood are often toxic and may affect the end result.
Water is the third of these main ingredients for composting, vital if your venture is to succeed. Not too wet, though. Most writers tend to use the “wrung-out sponge” analogy, i.e. that is about how damp the materials should feel. Too much water will choke the supply of oxygen and the micro-organisms that you need will die by drowning. Too little water will cause them to dehydrate and activity will slow down to almost nothing. Dig deep to test the moisture level. If you can raise a drop or two of moisture when you squeeze a handful of the mix, you are on the right track. Keep it moist by sprinkling regularly with your hose whenever you turn your ingredients, or you can plunge your hose into the centre so that the whole mass gets moist, not just the surface. If your heap is well structured, excess liquid will just drain away. In very wet weather, you may find it necessary to cover everything with tarpaulin to prevent water-logging.
Oxygen (Air) the fourth of the essential elements for composting, is needed by the micro-organisms, both bacteria and fungi, and the fauna that live in your compost in order to survive and to do their work. If your heap becomes too wet and clogs up, (and this tends to happen as your pile gets older) decomposition will grind to almost a standstill and the smells arising will not be sweet! To avoid this unhappy result, oxygenate your pile regularly, either by turning it or by using a tool specially designed for the job, called a compost aerator.
These main composting essentials are vital, as the absence of any one of them from your compost, will make all your efforts in vain.