Anaerobic Composting

There is something about gardening in rich soil. Planting seeds or starts in soil that just can’t wait to get growing is an indescribable feeling. Even those of us who once couldn’t seem to grow dirt get the excitement of watching new plants be born again and again.

But good soil isn’t an accident. Gardeners work at it, and one of the things they do is compost.

Many like aerobic composting. That’s the kind where you have a pile of organic matter, and every once in a while you grab a pitchfork or shovel and go show the pile who is boss.

And, truth be told, it’s pretty invigorating to stab that heap of leaves, dry grass, pine needles, and assorted kitchen waste, lift it up and FLIP! it over. Makes a person feel like roaring some days. Of course, there are the days when the rain is running off the tip of your nose and your back is gearing up for a strike…On those days, it might be a good idea to try anaerobic composting.

What is anaerobic composting?

Anaerobic composting is composting, just like the type of composting that has backs threatening to walk out on gardeners. With…a few differences.

The first thing you might notice about this “new” type of composting is that there is no pile in the back yard. Start it in a tumbler, close the lid, and turn it now and then. Whereas air helped the pile become the beautiful soil amendment gardeners love, this new way doesn’t allow air in at all. That is the first major difference.

You just need to get everything nice and wet, then put a lid on it. You might be amazed. It seems like EVERYTHING needs air. Except this.

How long does anaerobic composting take?

The second big difference is the length of time needed for completion.  Without any air, it takes a year! You might want to begin another batch. Try one in a garbage bag, for the second batch. Leave it out on a cement slab or something, where it can soak up lots of sun.

The garbage bag can be done in as little as six months.

Does anaerobic composting attract more pests?

This is the part many people really like. No waking up at 4 in the morning to the sound of raccoons fighting over something in the compost pile. Because it was sealed, they couldn’t smell it, so they leave it alone. Finally, no more cowering in bed, hoping the raccoons will make friends and head off to the nearest raccoon bar before they get hurt.

Be careful when you finally open up the sealed composter, though. There might be a tiny pest issue. Like about a zillion flies slamming into your face! Oh, well. Consider them miniature raccoons.

What about worms?

You can also try burying the compost container halfway underground, just to see whether anything will be different. The worms tend to like it after a while. Perhaps the PH level is too acidic for their little tummies at first. Not having any air causes the PH level to be pretty acidic.

How do you use anaerobic compost?

Well, as said before, give it a good year to break down. Some call it curing, simply because the alternative is to talk about it rotting, like a dead body. Anyway, let it cure for a year.

Then, take it out and let it sit in the air for about a month. This will help get the acidity and PH levels to a point where they won’t injure any growing things. Then mix it in with soil, a little at a time.

Check for smell as you go. If the smell is pretty strong, the compost isn’t ready.

What to use to make anaerobic compost?

Plants past their prime, green leaves, some grass, stuff that you clip or pull from the garden can go in. Avoid putting in woody branches in large quantities and weeds with a bunch of roots.

If the soil you are putting in is clay, add some pebbles. Sand is not a good substitute for pebbles.

The main thing is to be patient. Check it now and then. If it gets dry, wet it down a bit.


Hi, I'm Gina, mother of two sons and married to Wayne. I love working in- and around the house and my biggest hobbies are gardening and projects around the house. So I'll share a lot of tips and tricks with you around those topics.

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