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Permaculture Techniques - Composting


Where dead organic matter is selectively and deliberately broken down, at an accelerated rate, by rotting due to the action of micro-organisms, worms, termites and other small creatures, to harvest nutrients for use by living plants in the garden.

  • aerobic
  • through the action of animals (including worms, insects, etc)
  • anaerobic (generally slower than other methods)

Composting can take any proportion, from small units to large operations, depending on materials available and quantity of compost required. Care should be taken to ensure the carbon to nitrogen ratio in the compost is between 25 and 30.


  • Produces a totally organic and complete fertiliser
  • Affordable (cheap) and easy to produce
  • Improves soil structure
  • Makes use of organic waste materials, can use anything of organic nature (some materials require high temperatures to ensure safe decomposition)
  • Prevents loss of humus and nutrients from system, and returns them to the soil
  • Encourages earthworms and other soil borne creatures
  • If well made can neutralise pH imbalance (acidity/alkalinity)
  • Controls pathogens
  • Composting action can make soil minerals available for plant use
  • Can supply fungal spores for mycorrizhal associations
  • Kills weed seeds


Aerobic composting methods include any compost bin or pile not sealed and open to the atmosphere allowing oxygen using micro-organisms to decompose the material. These include:

  • classic Indore method (layering and periodical turning of materials into a pile kept at optimum moisture and temperature, on bare earth)
  • constructed bin open to the ground, usually rectangular in design and made from salvaged materials, in two or more sections, also preferably layered, and kept at optimum moisture and temperature, turned periodically

Through the action of animals (including worms, insects, etc) involves feeding the organic materials to selected animals for processing into manure suitable for direct application (as is or made into a "tea") as fertiliser. Animals used can included:

  • worms (in "worm farms" which may be of any size, and can even be placed on the kitchen draining board, or a commercial set up)
  • chickens and other poultry
  • guinea pigs and rabbits
  • more uncommonly larger animals

Anaerobic composting, where oxygen is excluded to promote the use of organisms which in effect ferment the material, includes:

  • prefabricated sealed composting bins, eg Gedye Bins
  • garbage bags
  • trench where composting material is buried
  • sealed pit (similar to above - different shape)
  • compost as a by-product of methane digesters

Recently Rebecca wrote to me and said she was doing some research online with her daughter Katie, and she came across this article , which "had alot of helpful information on getting started composting at home". Rebecca and Katie thought "it was a great find by her and wanted to share it" on my website "for people who are just getting into gardening like us!" Thank you for sharing your tip Katie!

Kate recommends this article to our readers Composting at Home.



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care for earth,
care for people,
return surplus,
reduce consumption

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Copyright © Beverley Paine 2002-14. Article from this website may be downloaded, reproduced, and distributed without permission as long as each copy includes this entire notice along with citation information (i.e., name of the periodical in which it originally appeared, date of publication, and author's name). Permission must be obtained from the author in order to reprint this article in a published work or to offer it for sale in any form. Please visit Bungala Ridge Permaculture Gardens for more original content by Beverley Paine.