In natures ’Wheel of life’ composting occurs at the bottom of the cycle, where death processes are turned back into life processes in the form of humus.
On the farm or garden it is the deliberate putting together materials to produce quality humus of the right quality to enliven the to enliven the soil .The end result is an even, dark brown/ black, humus rich, hygienic, living substance with a pleasant smell.
IN BIO -DYNAMICS there is NO ONE METHOD OF COMPOSTING within a farm or garden. There may be several different types of compost systems.
Just like there is no one way to prepare a family meal. The aim of both is to provide a broad range of ingredients to achieve a balanced meal. (For humans or the soil.)
Bio Dynamic practitioners use a broad range of composting methods. The method selected depends on:
- Types of materials available. Both on and off property.
- Quantity of materials / Available equipment.
- Crops nutritional needs.
Success with composting depends on;
The right mix of ingredients
Organic matter: Here we have the ‘U-Klekt-It Compost Company’ to supply good quality and quantity of chook and goose manure mixed with sawdust .On its own it makes reasonable compost as its C:N ratio is about right. But the more ingredients the better the compost. We grow comfrey and nettles to add to this along with any other green material. The types of green materials vary according to the seasons. Today’s compost had good quantities of fresh nettles, comfrey and a mix of other greens.
All these are required in balance by micro organisms in the heap.
In addition to the above elements compost requires the human element or ‘Quinta essentisa’ .The ordering principle to collect the ingredients and put the heap together. In addition a set of biodynamic preparation are added to the heap. If you think of a compost heap as a body then when we add the biodynamic preparations the heap is organized (Like adding organs to the body) The breakdown and more importantly build up of new substance (humus) is guided and balanced.
To help master the craft of composting draw some comparisons e.g.
Think of the process of making a cake:-collecting the ingredients, incorporating the right amount of air, baking at the correct temperature, testing for readiness, cutting to reveal the texture, moisture and complete baking.
Once the heap is completed the temperature starts to rise reaching between 30 and 50 degrees Celsius with in a few days. This heating process continues for up to 6 weeks then gradually reduces again until it stabilises at air temperature. The compost goes through 3 stages as it develops.
BACTERIA - FUNGUS STAGE
- Proteins are broken down by bacteria producing amino acids and ammonia
- Carbohydrates are broken down to simple sugars, organic acids and carbon dioxide.
Heat is required.
- The fungi ingest the free ammonia and rebuild it into amino acids contained in their mycelia.
Moisture is critical.
2. EARTHWORM STAGE
- Heating is reduced and the heat loving bacteria has produced spores and the fungi have pre-digested food for worms.
- Mixing of organic substances creating polymerised carbon chains - humus, which absorb captions such as calcium, ammonium, magnesium, potassium, and others becoming a sponge for nutrients.
- Arthropods e.g. centipedes begin to develop.
At this stage the compost can be used for heavy feeders, e.g. cabbage, corn, pumpkins ECT.
3. RIPENESS STAGE
- Humus bacteria come in. The compost turns into good crumbly humus with the smell of fresh earth. To test for this stage take a handful of compost and shape it into a ball - it should hold its shape, now drop it, it should fall apart. It is ready to use.
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