Two Basic Approaches to Passive Composting
The easiest way to define a passive compost pile is one that you have don't have to deal with much once it is started until you have the finished product. There are many people that prefer this approach because it doesn’t take a lot of time and it appeals to the laziness that everyone has a little bit of inside them.
There are a lot of benefits to the passive pile including
• Hands off
• Don’t have to deal with turning pile over
• No measuring temperature
• Minimal to no watering (except in dry climates)
• Hands off (no not a typo its a very big pro)
But it has its downsides as well
• SLOOOOOOOOOW- can take from months to years to break down
• Might not get hot enough to kill pathogens and seeds
• Can smell if its not layered correctly or it gets compacted
But downsides aside if you are a busy at your job or you are otherwise unable to take care of the pile on a consistent basis then the passive pile is the one for you. There are two basic approaches to passive compost piles, there is the Batch Pile and the Add As You Go Pile.
As the name suggests a batch pile is one that is started as one big batch that you don't add anything to the pile once it is going. This method is considered to be the fastest of the two passive approaches since all the material is already in place it enable the microorganisms responsible for composting to have all the material it needs. This pile will also tend to get hot easier since the microorganisms can be working full tilt throughout the pile. To build a Batch Pile you will only need a few things to get going the first would be a bin to place the materials. You can either build a bin if your are feeling handy from scrap lumber or pallets.
To the left you will see a very simplistic diagram of what a batch pile would look. At the bottom you would layer a coarser material like hay, straw, small sticks or twigs to provide good drainage to the pile then you begin to layer in your browns and greens in layers about 3-4 inches thick. Depending on the moisture of your material it will usually need to be watered as you are building the layers up. Adding water will ensure that the pile doesn't get to dry and stop the decomposition process. Once you get to the top it is a good idea to make the final layer either some kind of compost starter like Ringer 3050 Compost Plus or a brown material like straw, hay or dry grass clippings. If you decide to go with the compost starter it still would be a good idea to cover it with another layer of browns as they would aid in keeping the smell down and help keep heat and moisture in the pile.
Add as You Go Pile.
The name pretty much says it all. This pile leaves room to add materials to it as they become available. Many backyard or weekend composters like this setup because they do not have enough materiel on hand to fill a bin The setup for this type is the same as the pile above just stretched out over a longer period of time. This pile will most likely take longer to decompose because you are adding new material to it constantly and the microorganisms don't have such a large reservoir of food to feed on at one time. Piles like this can have odor or insect issues if materials are not layered properly in the pile. The most common mistake people can make with this is having to much nitrogen or Greens in the pile. This be easy to remedy by keeping dried grass, dead leaves or straw on hand to place on top of newly deposited green scraps.
Take Home Points
• Build or Buy a compost bin
• Gather materials to compost
• Cover bottom of bin with larger material to aid drainage
• Layer Greens and Browns in 3-4 inch layers
• Apply compost starter to pile ie. Previous compost, garden soil, manure, commercial starter