Composting Process Start
Typically a good mixture of carbon to nitrogen alone will allow the composting process to start. For instance a 30 to 1 ratio of carbon (brown material like dead leaves) to nitrogen (green material like fresh cut grass) is ideal for composting if the pile is at least 1 cubic yard. Of course, particle size and moisture are important as well.
Microbes for Composting
Think of it this way, when you go out into the forest and walk along lush trails you might notice that, through the years, the leaves fall to the forest floor and build up. If you were to dig down to the bottom of the leaves you would find microbes like bacteria and fungi working to decompose the leaves and leaving behind a rich soil product. This has gone on for as long as trees have been growing in the forest.
To quick start this process, we grind up the yard waste into a smaller particle size. We add air by turning the rows with our row turner and try to keep the piles moist through accumulated rain fall.
The Weather's Affect on the Composting Process
Remember the ice storm of 2009? There were tons of debris from yards all over the city that affected the composting program. Some of the recent summers have had droughts so the amount of fresh green grass has been reduced to be included in the mix. Drought conditions also affect the composting process as our facility relies on rain water to water the compost rows. The compost rows work best at about 60% moisture. In normal years, we receive 48 inches of rain, which allows for compost rows to "cook" very well. In drought conditions the microbes have a hard time working and the process can take longer to make finished compost.