Aerobic vs Anaerobic Composting

Posted by Taylor McCarten on

Microorganisms consume and decompose organic matter in two broad categories: Aerobic (requires air) and anaerobic (doesn’t require air). The most common method for home gardeners is Aerobic composting as it doesn’t require much effort to get started.

Aerobic composting is most commonly seen in tumblers where ventilation holes introduce air when you turn the compost. As long as air is able to enter the container it will decompose the material faster and more efficiently in comparison to anaerobic composting methods. If you don’t have a tumbler another way to achieve oxygen infusion is to place a pallet below your free-standing pile so air can flow under the compost. If you're looking for an at-home workout, using a pitchfork and mixing your compost will generate similar results. Aerobic composting is also less susceptible to extreme temperatures. Aboveground aerobic decomposers can withstand higher temperatures and due to its activity, it generates heat so lower temperatures don’t affect it nearly as much.

Anaerobic composting has its benefits as well. This method doesn’t require oxygen and can perform underground, most commonly in pits or trenches. Through the process of digging a hole, filling it with compost, and covering it up with a layer of soil there it eliminates the need for fresh oxygen. Once you fill the hole there is nothing left to do but wait. It works at a slower rate and is impossible to check once the hole is covered without poking around. However, if you have a lot of food waste that is smelly, rotten-attracting and wet anaerobic decomposition is a headache-free alternative. Emphasis on the smelly, as an odorous gas is released as a by-product of their exertions. Nevertheless, it can be beneficial if you don’t want to deal with your compost over the winter as it requires no maintenance for you lazy gardeners.

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