Storing Compost and Bugs in Compost
October 4, 2022
I live in Las Cruces in the valley. I took your 101 composting online class several months ago. I have a few questions: My set up is three wooden bins a little larger than 3x3x3', with solid sides on three sides, a shorter side on the front. I cover the compost with tarps. So far it has worked fairly well for me. I harvest a decent amount of compost about every 6 months or so. I don't have enough greens to make a hot compost pile; just use primarily kitchen scraps. I have a finished pile now that I would like to store until the spring to use in my pots for vegetables. (I don't have an inground garden. A few raised beds, but mostly garden in pots.) I am about to sift it to remove twigs but I need to know where is the best place to store it. I don't want to leave it where it is because I want to use that space for new compost. What would be convenient for me is a large (32 gallon or so) plastic container with a lid. Is an air tight container good or does the finished compost need air between now and the spring? Does it need moisture during storing?
My compost this past several months has been FULL of bugs of various kinds. They do most of the breaking down it seems. No worms. The bugs are in the finished compost also. Are they just living in the finished compost? Do they continue to break it down even though it appears to be finished? (The compost does have a different texture since the bugs have appeared. More of a gummy? texture.) There is no evidence of any original material (other than a few twigs) in the finished compost, very fine and earthy smell.
These two questions (how to store finished compost and what is the roll of the numerous bugs) I haven't been able to find on YouTube or google.
Thank you so much.
Answer by JZ: Other master composter colleagues may also send you their thoughts.
Bravo ! Your composting efforts are productive. No matter how you store your finished compost it will always be decomposed organic matter. A partially closed container which allows for air would be fine, which you have suggested. Container configured in the same way as a home made trash can composter should work well for storage purposes. Any size which suits your needs. See pics of plastic container bins on our website under Homemade Bins under Composting Info in our main menu. As the residual nitrogen in your finished product is volatile, a lid on the container is useful. If the contents are moist, then microbial action will continue. If you are so motivated, you may add red wiggler worms to the finished product, in which case you must keep the contents moist - about the same moisture level as freshly brewed coffee grounds, saturated but not dripping. The compost passing thru the worm digestive system will produce “rich” castings which are a useful soil amendment which will be ready for spring. Worms not required, just sharing a thought. If compost is stored on the dry side then continued microbial activity will be slowed down. The trash can bin may be used for “dry” storage too, providing some aeration.
Insects are part of the compost food web. They ingest organic material “digest” it, then defecate
the residual into the pile, where microorganisms then continue the decomposition process. Consider a variety of insects as your co-workers.
Let me know if this is helpful and if you have more questions. Compost on !
Answer by JH: Thank you for your question, and congrats on your composting success! One place to put your compost is on top of your raised beds. You could turn it into the existing soil a couple inches or just spread it on top. You could also top dress the soil around the base of your trees or spread it in the grass. But if you just want to store it, pretty much any covered spot will do - the plastic pail is a good option. The key is to avoid it being blown away or drying out.
Bugs are not a problem in the compost pile - as you mention, they help break down the feedstock and eventually become part of the feedstock.
Best wishes as you continue your backyard composting,