Here are our two compost piles that sit on a concrete slab near the barn. As all farmers and weekend gardeners know, compost is organic material that has broken-down through aerobic decomposition. In addition to providing a fertilizer, compost also conditions the soil and acts as a natural pesticide. Obviously, with six horses and a pony in the barn, we get plenty of organic material on a daily basis. To this we add (when possible) green organic material from the garden…weeds, clippings, plants that have gone to seed, and anything else that isn’t fed to the chickens or pigs. For the microorganisms in a compost pile to work effectively, four ingredients are necessary: oxygen, water, nitrogen and carbon. The carbon and nitrogen are supplied by the organic matter; green and wet materials are high in nitrogen while dry and brown materials contain higher carbon concentrations. According to the experts, ideal composting occurs with a carbon to nitrogen ration of about 30 to 1, which, by volume, means just about equal parts green and brown materials. And since the microorganisms also require oxygen, the compost pile has to be stirred on a regular basis. The heat generated is a result of the microbes oxidizing the carbon, and water is produced and released as steam. The heat also kills the unwanted weed seeds and any pathogens in the manure.
We use the compost as an ingredient in the soil blocks, mixed directly into the planting beds, and as a compost tea. The pile in the rear of the photo is currently being used, and with the garden (and weeds) really starting to grow in earnest now, we have started the new pile in the foreground.