Compost aerators are used to aerate your compost piles. They have been around since the early 20th century. There are several types of aeration devices available today, but most use air or compressed gas to move the material through the pile. Air and gas do not mix well, so they must be separated before being mixed with other materials.
Aerating Compost Without An Aeration Device
The first step to aerating your compost pile is to separate the air from the gas. You can do this yourself, or hire someone else to do it for you.
Most commercial companies will do this for you, but if you want a professional’s opinion then there are many home made aeration systems out there. Some of these DIY aeration systems are very simple, while others require some technical skills.
There are two main types of aeration devices: mechanical and chemical. Mechanical aerators use powerful motors to move the material through the pile.
Chemical aerators use chemicals such as chlorine dioxide (a common household bleach) to break up clumps of organic matter into smaller pieces which can then be moved through the pile easily.
How Using an Aerator Can Help Your Compost Pile
Aerating your pile is one of the best things that you can do to speed up the composting process. It will help to ensure that the pile is exposed to as much air as possible, which in turn speeds up the natural aerobic activity that occurs in all compost piles.
This is especially important in cold climates or winter months where there are less insects and animals actively crawling around on the pile to break it up. Compost piles take in oxygen and give off carbon dioxide. The faster these gases can be exchanged, the faster your pile will break down.
While you can mix new material into your pile often, it still takes time for the entire pile to break down. Moving the material around (with the help of an aerator) increases the surface area exposed to air.
This speeds up the process at which the material breaks down into compost.
You may have to rotate several piles if you have a lot of yard waste or kitchen scraps (kitchen scraps take longer to break down than yard waste). Turning the pile also exposes new sections to air, which helps them break down much faster as well.
How To Turn A Compost Pile: Which One Is Best?
There are two general types of compost turners: manual and mechanical.
Manual turners use a combination of pitchforks, shovels, rakes and other gardening tools attached to handles to move the materials through the pile. These tools can be used on their own, or a single person can use two tools at once if they are short enough to reach the ground when using them.
There are many different types of mechanical turners available on the market today. Some you can attach a corn head to that “pushes” the materials through the pile, while others use a series of paddles or rakes to literally turn the pile over.
Be sure to read the directions before using any of these devices, as most of them are only designed to be used in either compost piles or mulch, and should not be used in both.
Manual turners offer a little more versatility when turning your pile. They do take more energy and quite a bit more time, but some people find them easier to use overall.
Addressing The Wetness Problem
If you live in an area that has a longer rainy season (as compared to the dry season) then you will probably run into problems with your pile getting too wet. There are many commercial ways of combating this issue, such as using a tumbler or other turning devices.
Sources & references used in this article:
A comparison of vermicomposting and composting by J Dominguez, CA Edwards, S Subler – Biocycle, 1997 – jdguez.webs.uvigo.es
Composting of tobacco plant waste by manual turning and forced aeration system. by N Saithep, S Dheeranupatana, P Sumrit… – … International Journal of …, 2009 – cabdirect.org
Design of passively aerated compost piles: vertical air velocities between the pipes by NJ Lynch, RS Cherry – Biotechnology progress, 1996 – Wiley Online Library
The art and science of composting by L Cooperband – Center for Integrated agricultural systems, 2002 – files.webydo.com
Temperature, pressure and air flow distribution in passively aerated compost piles by TG Poulsen – Compost science & utilization, 2010 – Taylor & Francis
Oxygen and carbon dioxide distribution and movement in passively aerated compost piles by TG Poulsen – Compost Science & Utilization, 2011 – Taylor & Francis
A holistic evaluation of CO2 equivalent greenhouse gas emissions from compost reactors with aeration and calcium superphosphate addition by L Jinshan, X Zubin, L Gang, Z Jiabao, B Qicheng… – Journal of Resources …, 2010 – BioOne
Backyard Composting by CG Cogger, DM Sullivan, AI Bary – 2001 – s3.wp.wsu.edu