The changing landscape of the farm speaks of winter's arrival. With the withering of the vines and final harvests, it's time to begin preparing one of the most essential components of our organic garden: the compost pile. Compost is everything in organic farming. It adds organic matter, nutrients, beneficial microorganisms, and helps the soil to retain moisture (imperative in our current climate). There are three basic types of composting: aerobic, anaerobic, and vermiculture.
Anaerobic is the type of “composting” that’s happening all the time in nature; it’s composting without aerating the pile. Slow working bacteria and fungi gradually break down a pile of organic matter over the course of months or years. It works, (of course!), but not fast enough for a gardener’s purposes.
Vermiculture (worm composting) is a fantastic tool for composting kitchen waste, it doesn’t involve turning (the worms simply go to work for you), and you can include items that might not otherwise be able to go into a pile, such as food waste.
Aerobic composting is what most gardeners use. www.benefits-ofrecycling.com states that “high nitrogen waste (like grass clippings or other green material) will grow bacteria that will create high temperatures (up to 160 degrees). Organic waste will break down quickly and is not prone to smell.” It’s the ideal scenario for turning organic matter into usable compost in the shortest amount of time. It just requires a few key components.
First, a good balance of “greens” to “browns” – that is, nitrogen-rich materials (as in vegetable scraps) to carbon-rich materials (as in dry leaves). Once you’ve accumulated enough debris to start your pile, layer these greens and browns at a roughly 2 parts “brown” to 1 part “green.” Water your pile down thoroughly, and keep it watered (it should maintain a moisture level similar to that of a wrung cloth). At this point, happy and hard-working bacteria will begin their job, and very soon your pile should start to radiate heat.
From this point forward, the pile should be turned regularly (about once per week). If you notice that the warmth emanating from the pile diminishes more quickly, turn it more often. (Cooling indicates that the bacterial activity is slowing and you want to kick it back into gear.)
When your compost is rich and crumbly and smells like sweet soil, it’s ready for the garden! Our staff is specifically trained on how to collect kitchen scraps for proper composting, and since beginning we’ve reduced our waste in the restaurants by 25-30 percent.
The cyclical rhythms of the farm instruct us, and after preparing the rows and the compost heaps it's time for the garden to rest.