Joy’s Happy Garden
An Artist's Passive Aggressive Search for Sustainability in the Desert

Low Labor, Low Water, Hot Composting

COMPOSTING:
The biological reduction of organic materials into humus or soil.

HOT COMPOSTING: Heat generated in the damp volume of organic materials decompose materials into soil. (takes a few months)

COLD COMPOSTING: Allowing materials to decompose slowly without intervention. (takes years in the dry desert)

COMPONENTS OF COMPOSTING

The Rodale Book of COMPOSTING paperback, 1990, lists 71 sources of Nitrogen, 25 sources of Phosphate 56 sources of Potash.

ORGANIC MATERIALS include, but not limited to: WET: (nitrogen) fresh plant trimmings,(no oleander) weeds, kitchen vegetable wastes, fresh chicken or rabbit manure... DRY: (carbon) dried plant trimmings,(no oleander), dried weeds, paper, cardboard, hair, worn out natural fiber clothes, towels, sheets, dry chicken or rabbit manure, feathers, left over chunks from the last compost sifting.
Never use oleander.

NATURAL ACTIVATORS: manure, kitchen scraps, dried blood, compost, humus rich soil, URINE from healthy people, consider medications.

USING URINE FOR COMPOST MOISTURE.
Less Flush. Watershed Management Group estimates that by not flushing each person saves daily up to 10 gallons of drinking water. That’s 3650 gallons per person per year saving up to 550 kilowatt hours each year pumping the water up hill, treating the water before we flush and treating the waste water after.
Urine contains nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus, is a compost activator, and can be used as a direct plant fertilizer diluted with 10 parts H2O.
Pre-soak dry materials in urine, add urine to the materials in bin as needed. The hot process dries out the material in the center of the pile.

PRE-SOAK METHOD

Left: 5 gallon bucket. Right: black planter “soaker”
Left: 5 gallon bucket. Right: black planter “soaker”
Brown material bottom of 5 gal. bucket keeps lip of black soaker on bucket edge.
Brown material bottom of 5 gal. bucket keeps lip of black soaker on bucket edge.
Soaking
Soaking
Slowly raise soaker to allow fluids to drain, no heavy lefting or sloshing.
Slowly raise soaker to allow fluids to drain, no heavy lefting or sloshing.
Dry materials in second soaker ready to slip under draining soaker.
Dry materials in second soaker ready to slip under draining soaker.
Soaker continues to drain.
Soaker continues to drain.
Adding soaked brown materials to compost bin over green materials.
Adding soaked brown materials to compost bin over green materials.
After compost works its first heat 2-6 weeks,  no matter how wonderfully wet it started out,  it will be dry.  I've found a slow drip much more effective to rewet compost as pouring fluid on the top seems to run down the sides or run to the bottom without soaking in. I have jugs of urine that I lay on their side with the lids loose so they dribble slowly. Covered with plastic the jugs empty in a day or two. Soaking in where needed.
After compost works its first heat 2-6 weeks, no matter how wonderfully wet it started out, it will be dry. I've found a slow drip much more effective to rewet compost as pouring fluid on the top seems to run down the sides or run to the bottom without soaking in. I have jugs of urine that I lay on their side with the lids loose so they dribble slowly. Covered with plastic the jugs empty in a day or two. Soaking in where needed.
Rehab compost bins and piles to contain moisture, seal most of bin's holes. Screen and caulk most useful.  I've covered mine with canvas and painted them
Rehab compost bins and piles to contain moisture, seal most of bin's holes. Screen and caulk most useful. I've covered mine with canvas and painted them

Make basin in center of materials for evaporated moisture to drip down from plastic bag coverings.Use plastic bags on top of materials even with a bin's plastic lid.

After compost’s hot process you can make a collar on the top of the bin, fill with more unfinished compost, top with a few inches of finished soil and plant garden on top. When growing season is over the rough compost below is well aged, kept moist by watering plants above and ready to sift out finished soil for next season’s planting.

Any large chunks sifted out contain starter microbes and bacteria for the next batch of compost, prevent compaction, and continues to break down. The more varied the materials the richer the compost mix.

The average household with vegetable garden and landscaping can transform 54-125 cubic feet of organic material to 15-30 cubic feet of composted soil instead of landfill every year.

HOT COMPOSTING
PROS: quick, kills most weed seeds and pathogens.
CONS: more labor intensive, requires moisture, requires mass, conserves less nitrogen.


COLD COMPOSTING
PROS: Low labor, contains disease suppressing microbes, more nitrogen, requires little mass.
CONS: nutrient loss with extended exposure, can take up to 3 years in the desert, doesn’t kill pathogens or weed seeds.