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What is Composting?

01/01/14


What is Composting?

 

University of Guam

Composting is the recycling of decomposed, organic material by positioning these materials into or onto the soil. Anything that was once a living thing is compostable. In addition, it is an all-natural, alternative fertilizer and is a great way to recycle unwanted organic material. Composting follows a natural cycle, much like the water cycle, and can proceed without human assistance, unlike commercial fertilize. In turn, compost returns nutrients back into the soil and allows plants to grow with natural minerals which is not at all costly.

How to Compost

Continuous composting:

  • There are two ways of composting: by utilizing a bin and the other by applying the compost to exposed ground/soil. When using a bin there are also two methods which can be used, continuous composting and batch composting.
  • Continuous composting: Likely to use household scraps and/or new material. Soil or compost starter can be mixed with scraps and/or new material in a compost bin. More soil and materials may be added and can properly be applied when the desired amount of fertilizer is reached AND when all organic materials are broken down. This may take a few weeks depending on the desired amount of fertilizer.
  • Batch composting: This method of composting involves a much larger batch of organic material, preferably yard clippings and/or a pile of leaves. When using this method, organic waste should be left to settle and shrink to almost half the size it was when first placed in the bin. Other kinds of organic material may be added but it will take longer to break down.
  • The difference between continuous and batch composing is really just the size of the compost. Continuous compost turns in to batch compost when the bin is full. Also, when batch composting is done decomposing and shrinks, it can then be used for continuous composting.

Another way of composting is by applying compost piles or compost trenches onto or into the ground/soil. Although it sounds easier than using a bin, compost piling and compost trenches require more labor.

  • Compost piles: This method involves the removal of all weeds from the desired planting space. If weeds are not removed; they might intrude with plant growth. Compost piles should be away from buildings and gardens so they are not disturbed by attracted insects or other animals. Compost may need to be watered depending on the climate.
  • Compost trenches: Requires more manual labor. A 3 foot hole must be dug much like a latrine or trash midden. Compost is placed within the whole so that it is not so vulnerable to animals.

 

What NOT to Compost

  • Although there are a variety of unwanted materials that are compostable, there are a few that should NOT be used as an ingredient of compost. Below are the materials that are not recommended:
  • Ashes (coal or charcoal): May be toxic to plants
  • Cat litter: Disease may be present
  • Colored paper
  • Dog droppings: Disease may be present also
  • Lime: Acidity
  • Meat, fat, grease, oils, bones
  • Non-biodegradable materials
  • Toxic materials

 

Tips on Composting: