Different Types of Composting: Which Method is Right for You?

August 29, 2013

Earlier in the week we shared a post about composting basics.  While composting is pretty basic, there are a few different methods to consider.

There are essentially three types of composting; Aerobic composting, Anaerobic composting and Vermicomposting.  Each has its own set of requirements and benefits.

Aerobic Composting:

This form of composting is achieved by taking advantage of the bacteria already existing on the waste matter you’re putting into your composting pile or bin.  It’s a great choice for garden waste that contains high levels of nitrogen, like leaves and grass clippings.  Garden waste breaks down relatively quickly, and as it does can produce temperatures that can range as high as 160F. The high temperatures will also accelerate the decomposition of the other organic matter in your compost bin.

Aerobic composting is a very effective method of composting, but it does also require a fair amount of maintenance on your part. Every few days you’ll need to turn the composting material with a pitch fork or spin your composting drum, in order to provide adequate air circulation and also to keep mold from settling in.  Adding a bit of moisture to the compost pile while turning it is important as the continued moisture will encourage the decomposition process.  

Turn Compost with a Pitchfork

Turn compost with a pitchfork regularly

 So instead of piling all those leaves in the yard waste bin, to be hauled off by the city this fall, consider composting them instead.  Essentially, you’re recreating what nature has intended.  All those nutrients in the leaves and grass are meant to be returned to the soil.

Fall leaves Image by Gary Richardson

Fall leaves
Image by Gary Richardson

 Anaerobic Composting:

Anaerobic composting is a much slower method of composting and is typically better suited for those who have the room to dedicate to a larger compost pile.  With this form of composting, you simply gather your organic materials in a large pile and allow nature to do her magic in breaking the materials down. You can periodically turn the compost pile to ensure good distribution of the organic matter, but it isn’t necessary. This type of composting can actually take a couple years to break down all of the organic materials.  To access the best compost, scoop from the bottom of the pile where the material has been sitting the longest.

Fall leaf compost pile

Fall leaf compost pile


This type of composting is the best choice if you’re looking to compost kitchen scraps – eggs shells, carrot peels, lemon rinds, etc…. Vermicomposting is the process of using worms to break down the organic food waste.  The desired result is worm castings, a nutrient-dense mixture your plants will love!  The type of worms used will depend on where you live and the availability of worms, but typically white worms and red wigglers are used for this process.  For more information on where to purchase worms and worm composting supplies in the greater Seattle area, visit the King County website page dedicated to worm composting.  Remember my mention of “black gold” in the earlier post?  This is it!

Worm castings, aka Black Gold! Image by Steve Masley

Worm castings, aka Black Gold!
Image by Steve Masley

 Once your composting system has been established, you’ll find it relatively easy to keep it up and running. Stay tuned for another blog post about the many different types of composting bins and boxes there are to choose from!

Do you have a preferred method of composting?  We’d love to hear your advice.

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  1. Pingback: How to grow, use, and eat borage | The Best Gardening

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