There are many different composting methods practiced in the world. Some utilize static piles of material, and others agitate this material to allow for faster breakdown and a higher rate of bacterial multiplication.
Our composting operation focuses on the turning and aeration of our heaps, which facilitates the “cooking” of our material to decrease the presence of weed seeds and other undesirables. Turning also blends our raw ingredients together to ensure more consistency in our finished product. The turning and aerating of our compost piles supplies a constant stream of oxygen to the bacterial life present in the pile, fueling its growth and also creating an environment rich in heat and many levels of microbial and fungal activity.
In general, the composting process is quite complex. Our program at Field Station is going on its fifth year in 2016, and with each season of production come more improvements on our finished products and more knowledge gained on what works best to create great compost. Our fifth year product and our first year product are worlds apart. Our latest batches, when compared to what we produced during our fourth year, are significantly improved. Over the years, we have made major strides in everything from processes to selecting the right raw ingredients. We are producing more nutrient-rich and cleaner compost products than ever before.
Our process and our finished material is truly from the small farm. We supply small-farm-made compost. I iterate this so often because there is a lot of material on the market being called “compost” which is actually just old mulch, old leaves, horse manure, wood grindings, or yard waste. Alone, any one of these materials is not desirable as a soil amendment. It is the composting process which combines a wide array of desirable materials, cooks out the undesirables, and leaves us with a stabilized and workable material for use in amending our soil systems.
Our primary compost product, which can be ordered in bulk or in bags, contains manure, leaf material, decomposed hay and grass material, chicken manure, vegetable waste, wood shavings, and small amounts of other organic material. It is the blending of these products, and the bacterial cultures developed over years of composting, which make the Field Station compost blends unique and so desirable.
The farm focuses on the compost production process during the summer and winter, with most finished-product sales occurring in the early spring and fall seasons. If you are looking to amend your garden, I recommend starting in late winter or early spring. By the time May comes around, we are usually sold out due to our limited production capabilities.
We could write an entire book on what we’ve learned about composting, but the information is readily available online. Composting is not a secret science, but it is one which requires a whole lot of patience and attention to detail. Creating a pile of black or brown stuff is easy, but having a pile of black or brown stuff that is nutrient-rich and capable of growing good crops is a different ball game, and it takes time, time, time to get it right.