Composting is a great way to reduce waste and create nutrient-rich soil for your garden or plants. However, to ensure that your compost pile breaks down efficiently, it’s important to keep it aerated. Good airflow is key to the decomposition process, as it allows oxygen to reach the microorganisms that break down the organic material. In this blog, we’ll explore some facts on how to aerate the compost and provide you with some tips on how to maintain good airflow in your compost pile.
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Why proper aeration is important for compost
Proper aeration is important because air helps the required microorganisms survive in the compost pile so that they can decompose the organic material. The microorganisms require oxygen to carry out aerobic respiration which is provided to them by the air in the compost.
Proper aeration also helps regulate the temperature of the compost pile as microorganisms in the compost generate heat as they break down the organic matter. If proper aeration is not there, the heat can kill the microorganisms. On the other hand, if the pile is not enough hot, microorganisms will not be able to break down the organic matter at their full potential and it will lead to a slowdown of the decomposition process.
To ensure proper aeration, it is important to mix the compost pile regularly, so that oxygen can penetrate into the centre of the pile. Adding bulky materials such as straw or wood chips can also help to improve aeration by creating air spaces between the organic matter. In summary, proper aeration is crucial for creating a healthy and effective compost pile.
How aeration helps in proper moisture management in compost
Proper aeration helps in managing moisture levels in the compost pile and it also provides a proper atmosphere for the good microorganisms to function properly and effectively.
Here are some ways that proper aeration helps in moisture management in compost:
When air passes through the compost, the excess moisture evaporates with the air and maintains proper moisture in the pile.
Proper aeration also helps in preventing the compost from getting waterlogged. It helps excess water in the compost dry out easily which prevents the compost pile from getting waterlogged and also avoids anaerobic conditions.
Microorganisms in the compost require optimal levels of moisture and air in the surroundings to efficiently perform the decomposition of the organic matter.
Reduces Unpleasant Odor
An unpleasant smell usually comes when the pile is not properly aerated or it gets waterlogged. When the pile is properly aerated, the chances of the pile getting waterlogged also decreases, so it overall decreases the chances of anaerobic activities decreasing the risk of an unpleasant smell overall.
Below are a few things that you can do to maintain proper ventilation throughout your compost pile.
Turn the compost pile regularly
One major best thing you can do is turn your compost regularly. There are tools available in the market specifically just for compost turning. When you turn your compost, the air reached every part of the compost and if the compost is wet, then turn it for a little more time so excess water gets dried and proper moisture levels are maintained in every part of the compost. This will help in making the compost even in all the layers and also if there is any odour or smell, it will go away. You can use a pitchfork or a compost aerator to mix the compost well and create small air pockets all over the whole compost. You can schedule compost turning in every 3-4 weeks.
Use bulking agents
Bulking agents are lightweight materials which weigh less and take up large spaces in the compost. This helps in creating air pockets in the compost and maintains a flow of air throughout the compost. Usually, the bulking agents like shredded leaves, stems, straw, sawdust and other small twigs are usually very carbon-rich and help maintain a carbon-nitrogen ratio. Just put some of these bulking agents into the compost and mix it well. For measurements, try using one part of bulking agents for every two parts of green material used in the compost.
Monitor moisture levels
If you are composting, moisture plays a very vital role in the whole process and is also something that should be taken care of very statistically. If compost pile gets too wet, it can become waterlogged and there will be no air inside it and the compost will also turn very compacted. If it’s too dry, the whole process of decomposition will slow down. To know the good moisture level in the compost, just take some compost from the pile in your hands and try to squeeze it, if no dripping water comes out of it and it still feels wet, that is the perfect level of moisture that is required for healthy composting. If it’s too wet, add some brown into the compost and turn the pile a bit to introduce some air into it. If it’s too try, add water as per requirement.
Use a compost aerator
If your compost is too big to be turned by your own hands, try using a compost aerator. It is a long metal rod with flanges or wings at the end which can be used to introduce some air into the compost. Simply insert the aerator into the compost and twist it back and forth to introduce some air pockets into it. Repeat this process till the whole compost is twisted using it.
Create a layered pile
Creating a layered compost pile is also an amazing way to maintain a good balance of different minerals and keep the pile aerated and maintain good airflow. To create a layered pile of compost, put some browns first into the compost and then put a layer of greens above it, make sure to maintain an equal ratio of browns and greens in the process of layering to maintain good airflow.
Use a compost bin with ventilation
If you’re composting in a compost bin, select a bin which got holes in it for ventilation. These holes will help in air circulation throughout the compost. If you already have a bin and it’s not having holes in it, you can simply drill a few holes in it.
Chop or shred materials
When you’ll chop the materials of the compost pile, it will help create more small gaps in between the materials which can trap the air between them. It’ll also provide more area to the bacteria and micro-organisms with more surface area to work on.
Use a perforated pipe
You can also use a perforated time, just dig it in the middle of the pile and include air directly into the compost. You can simply use a PVC pipe, drill some holes in it and use it. Or else you can purchase pipes which are built for this specific purpose.
Use forced aeration methods
Nowadays there are air pump systems available which are electric and they have pipes which they dig deep into the pile and then use the pump to aerate the compost pile.
Avoid overloading the pile
Adding too much material into the compost can also reduce the airflow through the compost. When you add too much material for decomposition, it gets a little compressed by its own weight and when you make it wet, it gets heavier and compresses itself more. Try to decrease the size of the pile, by decreasing the size it gets easier to maintain a healthier compost pile.