Hello! This is a tutorial on how to establish a very rich vegan compost in under 5-6 months. This tutorial will cover the elements necessary to renew and revive your soil, possibilities of accomplishing a closed-loop composting system, and how to build a complete compost without the need for animal manure/byproducts or synthetic fertilizers.
Things you'll need:
-A lightweight D-handle shovel
-A rake (preferably deep spikes)
-2 5 gallon buckets of already sifted cured compost, or good living soil (Not necessary! But recommended!)
-Compost wood structure (will post instructable on how to design and build)
-Twigs, dry leaves from fall, dry grass, or anything brown
-Weeds, grass, compost crops, kitchen left-overs, or anything green
-A designated shady space suitable for a compost that can be turned once every 1-2 months
How to Grow more Vegetables! http://www.growbiointensive.org/publications_about_HTGMV.html
Vegan Organic Gardening http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vegan_organic_gardening
Real Seeds UK Open-Pollinated Non-GMO Seeds http://www.realseeds.co.uk/index.html
80+ Items You Can Compost http://www.care2.com/greenliving/80-items-you-can-compost.html
Bountiful Gardens http://www.bountifulgardens.org/
Step 1: Loosening the Soil Beneath Your Compost Pile
It is important to loosen the soil under your compost pile for several reasons.
Allows air flow
Allows proper drainage
Helps life to move more freely beneath the compost
In this photo you can see that the soil has been loosened with a shovel and ground with a rake. I have double dug this space to be about 35cm (14in) deep. This might be called "too much" by lazy people but regardless it is worth it when you are living in a time with lots of rain or in an environment with rich living soil.
I have also collected a variety of weeds, dry leaves, small twigs, wood chips, and immature composting crops (like hemp, fenugreek, or alfalfa) into buckets.
The pictures below show a before and after.
Next step: Layering your compost!
Step 2: Layering Your Compost With Complete Nutrients! Carbon-Nitrogen Cycle!
"Give back to the soil as much as you have taken- and a little bit more- and Nature will provide for you abundantly!" -Alan Chadwick
It is important to fulfill all the necessary needs of our future fruits, veggies, and compost crops. To do this we need a wide variety of organic compounds from all sorts of sources in our compost. We also add soil to the mix for all the worms and decomposing microorganisms too. This will create a rich hummus for our plants to grow in. The main element to compost is an ideal nitrogen-to-carbon ratio. An ideal nitrogen-to-carbon-to-soil ratio is 45% nitro, 45% carb, and 10% soil. Yes, other vitamins and minerals are also necessary but for basic protein structuring of plant cells the nitrogen-to-carbon ratio is the foundation.
In this step I have added a 5-8 cm (3-4 inches) of twigs and wood chips. I have also added another 5-8cm (3-4 inches) layer of dry leaves. Watering thoroughly between and after layers. These two layers are known as the carbon layer.
What has carbon in it? Basically everything you see in your garden that is brown has carbon. Many other things have carbon, like pine needles, cardboard, charcoal, and ashes. Usually I like to stay away from anything toxic to you or the plants. For example, ink on cardboard or newspaper....or highly acidic things like pine needles. If I was you I'd just just dry leaves, wood chips, and non-treated shredded cardboard.
Why water between layers? We are trying to create soil! There are billions of microbes and organisms in soil with lots of different nutrients, minerals, and organic matter. Water is the binding element in compost that completes the decomposing life-cycle. If water is added to the pile frequently then it makes it easier for decomposition to happen.
The next step is to add the nitrogen layer.
Step 3: Carbon Nitrogen Soil!
In this step I have added a 5-8 cm (3-4 inches) of weeds, compost crops, and grass. I have also added another 5-8cm (3-4 inches) layer of kitchen waste. Watering thoroughly between and after layers. These two layers are known as the nitrogen layer.
What has nitrogen in it? Basically everything you see in your garden that is green has nitrogen. Many other things have nitrogen, like hay and coffee grounds. I use alfalfa, nettle, dandelion, hemp, and clover as my nitrogen crops! Someday, I wish to use fenugreek and barley as well.
What about the rest? Well the rest of the nutrients will be coming from your kitchen left-overs, fruit pits, banana peals, etc. I tend to limit items from the compost that are not organic. Pesticides, insecticides, and steroids aren't that great when leeched into your soil. It is optimum to use kitchen left-overs from your garden harvest so that the nutrients in your local area stay on site. Also, if your diet contains a high amount of raw fruits and veggies then the vitamins and minerals needed for your compost will almost 100% be achieved. Especially if you are using manure from your compost toilet! Some people hold a taboo with using human manure but hey, if it is vegan than it is no less clean than grass fed cow or corn fed goats. Most of this taboo comes from us knowing, but not admitting, that are diets aren't healthy. And that may be why it is not culturally acceptable either.
Next step is adding the life! From the soil!
Step 4: Essembly and Soil Layer!
In this step I have built the structure of the compost around the already formed pile. In reality you would want to do this backwards; putting the pile into the compost structure instead of building the bin around the pile. The only reason why I did it like this is so that you can see the thickness of the layers as the compost is being formed.
Now that you saw the layers it is time to add the final layer of life into the pile. The billions of critters and micro organisms that exist in soil will activate the "fermentation" of the compost after watering. Make sure to water thoroughly between layers.
Step 5: Finished!
After the soil layer you repeat the process until the entire bin is full to the top. With this system you can decompose an entirely new pile in under 6 months. Ideal to start in the fall/early spring. Turn once every 1-2 months.
Here is how the compost looks thus far! Will report back with nutrient measurements and decomposition activity details over time.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read this information! Any questions just shoot me a comment! I'll make sure to post an instrucable on how to build this compost bin (complete with measurements and drawings and all!) Take care!
Love and Light!