Later in the year, if the pile goes dormant and even freezes, there will be an adequate population of compost organisms already in the pile that will enable the pile to start working again in the spring. On the other hand, anytime a compost bin fills up and has no more capacity for additional organic material, a new bin can be started, even in the winter months.
How long does it take to fill a bin?
The Humanure Handbook: A Guide to Composting Human Manure
A standard humanure compost bin used by a family of four is about a cubic meter up to 1. A bin of this size can hold the entire amount of organic material collected by the family over a year, including humanure, cover materials, food scraps, garden and yard materials. The reason a small bin of this size can hold so much material is because the organic material shrinks while it is composting. The compost organisms are converting the organic materials into a dense humus — a process that involves constant shrinking of the organic materials that are added to the pile.
When composting for larger groups, larger bins will be needed, or a number of bins may be used. In cold weather if the compost is dormant or frozen, it will undergo no shrinkage and will fill more quickly. However, once it starts working again in the spring, it will again shrink. If the pile is active, it will be shrinking between additions of organic material. So it may look full, but you can still add a lot to it because it keeps shrinking.
Is this true that a compost pile should be turned periodically? No, you do not need to disturb the compost pile other than to move the cover material from the top center of the pile and dig a small depression there when adding new material. Let the compost organisms do the rest of the work for you. Sufficient oxygen will be entrapped in the pile as you add compost materials. Digging,chopping and turning the pile is totally unnecessary and will disturb the compost organisms that have established their own layered populations. Just build the pile, patiently allow it to age, and then use the compost.
It is a mistake to try to hurry the composting process. Composting requires patience. Composting is like an art. The practice of composting can be improved through experience and observation. There is much misinformation being circulated about backyard composting, often, ironically, by compost educators. The compost is never left in an exposed pile. The compost is always collected only in bins and always covered.
When someone piles organic material in an open pile, as was often done back when composting practices were first being developed and is still done today in many places , the pile will stink, it will attract flies and it will need to be repeatedly turned. Open piles are usually not covered because the surface area is too large and it would take too much cover material. Also, open piles have large surface to volume ratios there is too much surface relative to volume. This means the internal heat of the pile is unavailable to a large amount of the organic material on the outer surfaces.
Turning is a very labor intensive process and totally unnecessary when containing the organic material in a covered bin. When is the compost ready to be used? After the compost bin has been completely filled, it must be covered with a generous layer of clean cover material and left to rest, undisturbed, for approximately one year. This is the aging or curing stage of the compost and it is a very important stage. During the retention time, the final decomposition of the organic material is taking place.
This is often dominated by fungal organisms as well as larger organisms such as earthworms. The retention time allows for an additional safety period. The compost will continue to shrink while curing. It will kill plants. You do not want your compost to be immature.
You may hear people saying how fast they can make compost — some say only a few weeks. Let your compost fully mature. Allowing it to cure for approximately one year after the bin is filled is a good practice. You can pull a sample of your compost out, put it in a jar and sprout a seed in it to test the maturity. Pumpkin or cucumber seeds work well for this purpose.
Otherwise, after a year or so of aging, the compost will be ready. In tropical climates, the curing or retention time may be reduced to nine months. Use your compost thermometer and make sure the compost temperature has dropped to ambient outside air temperature before using it for agricultural purposes. How should the finished compost be used? The finished compost, after the retention time is complete, should look and smell like rich, dark, moist garden soil. It can be used to grow garden plants, trees, vines, shrubs and flowers.
It can be used on top of the soil as a mulch, or dug into the soil for better root access for the plants. It can also be buried in holes where trees and shrubs are to be planted. Once the first batch of compost has been completed which will require approximately a two year period — a year of collecting and a year of aging , a gardening household of four people can produce approximately one cubic meter of compost annually.
In the interests of public health, all compost produced on a family plot should be used only on that plot. When compost is made and then transported off the property, or sold, the compost operation can be considered commercial, can be regulated, and can be subject to a host of statutary restrictions. This can be avoided by making and using your own compost. Watch a YouTube Video showing finished compost being added to a garden:. How do we know the compost is safe to use? That means the compost should be teeming with beneficial microorganisms that do not pose a threat to human health. Any human disease organisms that may have been in the original organic material should have been eliminated, weakened, or greatly diminished by the time the compost has become mature.
Finished compost can be tested for both the existence of pathogens as well as for agricultural quality testing labs are listed in the Humanure Handbook. If a composter doubts the safety of the finished compost, the compost can be used for ornamental plants and flowers, for trees and bushes, or for food crops where the compost will not come into contact with the food and where the handling of the compost will be minimized.
An alternative is to simply allow an additional year of retention time for the compost.
Allowing additional retention time requires no energy and only a small amount of space. The additional retention time may contribute to the safety of the finished compost when the compost quality is in question such as when the humanure has been collected from a population that suffers from confirmed diseases.
On the other hand, rather than let the mature compost sit another year, shovel it into holes in the ground and plant something on it. Wear gloves and wash your hands afterward. A healthy household that composts its own humanure does not need to be overly concerned about the safety of the finished compost if the instructions in this manual are followed. On the contrary, by composting humanure rather than disposing of it into the environment, long-term public health and safety can be improved, the environment can be protected, and the finished compost can provide soil fertility.
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The Humanure Handbook: A Guide to Composting Human Manure, 2nd edition
Acquiring the Cover Materials Without proper cover materials in adequate quantities, the humanure compost toilet will not work. Rotted leaves are ideal for humanure toilets. Contact your municipality to see if such a source of organic material is available to you. Avoid wood chips or wood shavings as these do not compost well.
Cover materials should not be wet. They should have a basic carbon content from stems and leaves and other plant cellulose byproducts. Again, the simple rule when using cover material is if the compost that is covered smells unpleasant, it needs more cover material. Cover until there is no bad odor.
Green Technology Research : Canine Compost
How To Build a Compost Bin A simple compost bin is four pallets set on edge and tied together in a square. More permanent bins involve posts and boards. If the top of the compost is accessible to chickens, dogs, etc. A square piece of loose wire fence is easily removed when adding compost to the pile.
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The compost bin itself can be built from pallets, scrap wood, wire mesh, stacked bales of hay or straw, other recycled materials, or even masonry materials such as block, brick or stone. Do not use lumber that is treated with chemicals. A humanure toilet system can be used in the same location for generations.
The most serious composters will construct a permanent bin. A minimum three bin system is recommended. One bin is filled for a year and then left to age. Another bin is filled for a year while the first bin ages. The first bin is gradually emptied as the second bin nears filling.
By the time the second bin is full, the first bin is empty and the cycle starts again. A roof over the third bin can be used for rain water collection, with the water being conveniently used for cleaning compost toilet receptacles. A water collection system must be drained during freezing weather. Watch a YouTube Video showing a three-chambered compost bin:.
In such as scenario, the humanure toilet receptacles, full and covered with snug lids, are collected from homes, toilet stalls and even apartments, perhaps daily or weekly, and are taken to a composting site. Such systems have been employed throughout the USA at various venues such as music festivals and other gatherings where humanure is collected on a daily basis and composted on-site along with food scraps and other organic material.
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