The importance of aerating the compost

Much has been said about compost in this and other blogs. The well-known process to convert organic materials into high-value nutrients for the garden and garden is a real alternative to specific fertilizers, especially if it is a small-scale farm or farm. Among the hundreds of processes that take place in a compost pile, we talk a little about aeration today.

TURNING, AERATORS OR WHATEVER WE WANT, BUT THE COMPOST NEEDS AIR

The composting process we already know more or less how it works. Broadly speaking, we can say that it is a process in which a large amount of residual organic matter from our kitchen, orchard, or garden is subjected to very numerous and varied biochemical processes in different phases. Through these processes we will be able to decompose this organic matter into humidified matter,  which is known as humus. This humic fraction is the one that the plants and crops will be grateful for, later offering us succulent crops or lush gardens.

Knowing these processes and knowing what factors limit or accelerate the reactions, we can “manage” times and accelerate the production of compost . Typically, a compost pile, for example, can take months or even a year or more to generate usable humified material. This of course, with hardly any temperature control, few turns …

On the other hand, we have the most advanced composting processes, even industrialized ones, in which a large number of variables such as temperature, humidity, C / N ratio , cubic capacity are controlled … achieving composting times of just one month or weeks.

If you are a regular on this blog, you will remember the article we wrote about the composting process in 2 weeks from the University of California, Berkeley, in which controlling temperature, homogenizing the raw material and turning very frequently, you could get a compost young in just 3 weeks, although with certain differences.

AEROBIC REACTIONS ARE WHAT WE WANT, NOT ANAEROBIC ONES

When the composting process is in full swing, biochemical reactions occur at frantic rates, and as with almost all reactions of this type, heat is generated. This heat can increase, as you know, up to 65ºC or 70ºC in extreme cases, where in addition to rapid degradation, a certain sterilization of the compost heap is also achieved.

Compost generating heat

These heat-generating reactions are primarily aerobic. This means that they need oxygen to be produced. On the other hand, anaerobic ones produce unwanted fermentations that generate bad smells, rot, pathogens, fungi, the presence of insects and an endless number of unpleasant things that ruin all that matter that we had in mind for the orchard or garden.

Remember that in this article you can see what things can go wrong in compost and how you can fix them before it is too late.

To avoid all this, the only thing that the heap requires is our physical effort . We need to turn, put aerators (blowing does not count 😉). But the fact is that we need to put air in, which after all is the element that cannot be missing in aerobic reactions. That is why turning is one of the essential processes in the formation of this precious nutrient for plants.

TURNING THE SHOVEL AND CARRYCOT IS A TIRING TASK!

Yes, we know. Moving, turning and aerating a compost pile of hundreds of kilos is something that is lazy and if you have to do it frequently, it will take away the desire to compost. Bueeeenooo, let’s not despair. There are other ways to aerate compost without as much effort. Have you heard of aerators? It is a much less expensive way to introduce air into the composter or compost pile.

Compost aeration process with an aerator

There are basically two types. The ones with the “propeller” on the tip (the one in the previous photo) and the ones I call a corkscrew. Both serve the same purpose and are effective, although the “corkscrew allows you, in addition to airing, to take a sample of the compost to see how it evolves by levels or heights. They can be bought or you can make it yourself by ordering it from the town blacksmith if you have it. In the end it is nothing more than a round iron shaped like a propeller and a handle to grip.

“Corkscrew” compost aerator

With these instruments there is no longer an excuse to aerate our compost once or twice a week and obtain a balanced compost, with a good fraction of humus and without anaerobic fermentation. Even with the aerators, it does not hurt from time to time to hit the odd turn, especially if we are gradually adding fresh organic matter as we are generating it.

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