Composting for us accomplishes a couple goals. The first and main goal is to feed our garden naturally and organically. The second is to reduce the amount of garbage that ends up in the landfill from our home. By composting our kitchen scraps, and we cook daily, we eliminate much of what would end up in the trashcan for pick up. The scraps, in turn, add nutrients back into our soil, feeding the next batch of food headed to the kitchen. And then back again.
So what exactly is composting? To start, see the definition below from thefreedictionary.com:
a mixture of decaying organic matter, as decomposting leaves, manure, kitchen scraps, etc., used for fertilizing soil.
a composition; compound.
Basically compost is organic matter that's been broken down through various processes into soil rich with nutrients. There are plenty of ways to compost, four are outlined below, from the most basic pile of leaves to controlled systems.
The basics of composting are air, water, heat, bacteria and other natural organisms such as worms and larvae that break down natural materials into soil or humus.
At its very basic level, composting can be done by simply piling organic materials such as leaves and grass clippings and allowing nature to do its thing. Bacteria and other processes within the pile create heat which helps break down the materials. Worms and other organisms do their part by eating and excreting.
Turning the material in the pile can help speed the natural process though it isn't necessary. If you have natural areas that are mulched in your yard and you've ever noticed the deep, rich black soil under the last layer of mulch, you've seen the results of simple composting.
Layered composting is similar to a basic compost pile, but materials for the compost are added in smaller layers, often as small is 1" thick to several inches thick (this really depends on personal preference and the size of the compost pile), to alternate "green" and "brown" materials.
Layered composting is most often done to start a compost pile - it helps get microbial and bacterial activity going and allows air and water to penetrate the pile more easily. Once the pile begins to settle it is recommended to turn the pile periodically.
Vermicomposting is the process of using worms and micro-organisms to turn kitchen waste into nutrient-rich worm castings and humus. These castings contain reduced levels of contaminants and a higher concentrations of nutrients than organic matter has before vermicomposting.
Vermicomposting is typically done using a bin system with one or more composting bins (stacked) with holes so the worms can easily move from bin to bin and also for aeration.
There are many products on the market that are used to speed the process of composting through various means. One of those is a tumbler.
With a tumbler organic materials are placed in a container. The container either rolls or is mounted on a frame to turn. This motion is done periodically to rotate and mix the material inside - aerating it. Most are designed to also hold heat and will heat up in the sun to further speed the process of decomposition.