Tag Archives: Compost

18 Day Compost: The Berkeley Method

In the 1970s a formal study was conducted to determine the fastest way to rot   organic material. Robert D. Raabe, Professor of Plant Pathology, at the University of California, Berkeley developed what he called the Fast Composting Method, but many call it the Berkeley Method. Raabe discovered that heat-loving bacteria convert plant material to usable compost the fastest, with the most nutrients and fewest harmful elements, like weeds and plant diseases. To attract the right kind of bacteria, a few simple conditions must be met.

The requirements for hot composting using the Berkley method are as follows:

  1. Compost temperature is maintained between 55-65 degrees Celsius: This is the ideal range because it is the temperature at which weeds seeds and pathogens will be killed. The hotter the compost, the darker your compost will become. Most importantly this is the ideal temperature range where the compost will get most diversity of life.
  2. The C:N (carbon:nitrogen) balance in the composting materials is approximately 25-30:1. It is important that you find what combinations you can make your compost heap out of. (See Carbon to Nitrogen list)
  3. The compost heap needs to be roughly 1.5m high. This is important because a higher heap will create compaction in the middle which will result in anaerobic decomposition. If  you want to make more, make the heap as long as you want, but keep the height the same.
  4. If composting material is high in carbon, such as tree branches, they need to be broken up, such as with a mulcher.
  5. Compost is turned from outside to inside and vice versa to mix it thoroughly.
What do you need? 
A pitch fork, a rake and a plastic cover.
activator (optional): They will make the compost decompose faster. Some are high in minerals, others in nitrogen compounds, all stimulate fast and diverse life cycles in your compost heap. Activators can be: Urine, blood, animal or fish remains, comfrey, nettles, yarrow, or a handful of good compost.

With the 18 day Berkley method, the procedure is quite straightforward:

  1. Build compost heap
  2. 4days – no turning
  3. Then turn every 2nd day for 14 days

With 1/3 manure, 1/3 greens, 1/3 dry materials, alternate layers of each onto a ground layer of small sticks and twigs. If you are using and activator dont forget to put in in the middle of your heap.

Saturate your heap with water until moisture content of a sample barely drips when squeezed. Then put sticks on top of your pile so that when you put the plastic cover it doesn’t stick to the pile.

This is your starting point, leave the pile in a shaded area if you can (if in the sun check moisture content) – Leave the pile for 4 days.

On day 4: This is your first turning over. You need to peel off the outer layer, which will now become the center of the heap, and the inner layer of the heap become the outer layer. Again check the moisture content and cover.

Two days later on day 6: Turn the pile again like on day 4. Cover.

Two day later on day 8: This is the hottest the compost heap should ever get. If you have a thermometer, check that our heap is between the range of 55 and 65 degrees Celsius. If you don’t have one, there is a simple trick you can do to find out. Stick your arm in the heap until your elbow, if you can do it your compost heap is not hot enough. If you can’t, good news you are on the right track. Turn the pile for the 3rd time and cover.

Two days later on day 10: Turn the heap, you should be noticing that your heap has gotten cooler, this is normal. The compost heap will continue to get cooler everyday from this day onwards.

Day 12: you should be turning the pile for the 5th time now. Cover.

Day 14: Turn again.

Day 16: And again, this is your last time turning the pile.

Day 18: The compost heap should be the same size as when started, just warm and have a nice small, dark crown color, with just a few chunks here and there.

What do you do on day 8 if temperature range is not reached?

 Ask yourself these questions if your compost heap is not hot enough on day 8:

  • Is my compost heap big enough?
  • Is it too wet? too dry?
  • Is my nitrogen to carbon ratio wrong? too big chunks?
What happened? You probably added too much water, in which case you need to cut your heap into 2, like making a chimney to facilitate evaporation. You might have not put enough water in which case you need to add some. If not too dry or too wet, you probably put in too much carbon and need to balance it out with some more nitrogen content. 
Ask yourself these questions if your compost heap is too hot on day 8:
  • Nitrogen levels too high?
  • Does it smell bad? (nitrification)
  • Is it dropping in volume very fast? 
What happened? You probably added too much nitrogen, you need to add more carbon material to heap to balance it out as carbon acts like a sponge.
Remember any mistake you do in the process will take you back 2 days in the overall process. 

Information and pictures compiled from:



How to Make the Best Compost | Suite101.com http://elise cooke.suite101.com/how-to-make-the-best-compost-a215531#ixzz1oHCq62d1


How to use Effective Microorganisms (EM) ?

Where to use EM?

EM in the soil: 
Most organics including animal manures and composts have populations of micro-organisms. Many of these are beneficial upon introduction to the soil, however they are soon overwhelmed by the existing soil microorganisms. Thus, the beneficial effects of micro-organisms introduced with the application of composts are often short lived. On application EM cultures are subject to the same fate when applied to the soil environment . But the advantage of EM is that beneficial microorganisms are in much greater numbers, and in optimally balanced populations when introduced, so remain dominant in the soil for a much longer time. The effectiveness of EM can be extended in soils by three applications of EM at 8 – 10 day intervals during the first 3 to 4 weeks after planting a crop. This will insure that EM populations remain high throughout a critical a period when young seedlings and plants are vulnerable to environmental stresses (drought, heat, weeds, and pathogens). It is at this stage when the greatest loss in crop yield and quality occurs.

EM cultures and organics:
EM cultures have been used effectively to inoculate both farm wastes as well as urban wastes to reduce odours and hasten the treatment process. EM has also been used with great success as an inoculant for composting a wide variety of organic wastes. An EM culture known a s EM Bokashi can be used for composting food organics and other compostable materials. EM Bokashi is a fermented compost starter made from sawdust and wheat bran. When the correct conditions are provided EM sets in motion a fermentation process to transform food and other organic materials into compost. (See post on Bakashi)

EM effects on soils and crops:
EM has been used on many different soils and crops over a wide range of conditions. Results show that in most cases EM gives positive results. EM is not a substitute for other management practices. EM technology is an added dimension for optimising our best soil and crop management practices such as crop rotations, use of composts, crop residue recycling, and biological control of pests. If used properly EM enhances soil fertility and promotes growth, flowering, fruit development and ripening in crops. It can increase crop yields and improve crop quality as well as accelerating the breakdown of organic matter from crop residue population of beneficial micro- organisms in the soil is also increased helping to control soil diseases through competitive exclusion.

EM for weeds pests and diseases:
EM is not a pesticide and contains no inorganic chemicals. EM is a microbial inoculant that works as a bio-control measure in suppressing and/or controlling pests through the introduction of beneficial microorganisms to soils and plants.  Pests and pathogens are suppressed or controlled through natural processes by enhancing the competitive and antagonistic activities of the microorganisms in the EM inoculant.

EM for the garden:
EM is a liquid concentrate and in this form the micro organisms are alive but dormant. It is a dark brown liquid with a pleasant vinegary yeasty type smell.The pH of this liquid is approx. 3.5. To activate the EM simply dilute the concentrated solution with clean chlorine free water. The EM solution which is then produced is a yellowish-brown in colour with a pleasant smell.

Liquid EM:

Where to use EM Liquid Concentrate?
EM Liquid Concentrate can be used as a pre planting treatment, as a foliar spray, or for actively growing fruit and veggie crops, and for all ornamental plants. In fact anywhere in the garden including your compost heap or areas of poor or stagnant soil.

Applying EM Liquid Concentrate:
Use EM liquid concentrate in the garden at the rate of 5ml EM concentrated solution diluted in 1 litre of clean chlorine free water. Apply at the rate of one litre per square metre. These are minimum recommended rates for use.

How to improve the performance of EM concentrate? (This following procedure is optional)

You will need:

  • 10 litre watering can
  • 10 litres of chlorine free water (water
  • can be left to stand for 24hrs to allow
  • the chlorine to evaporate)
  • 10-20mls EM Concentrate
  • 10-20mls Molasses or 2 tblsp of brown sugar

If necessary, dissolve the molasses or brown sugar in a little warm water first. Then pour the molasses or brown sugar into the 10 litres of water and stir thoroughly. Add the EM Concentrate into the molasses, water mix and stir well.

The EM then uses the molasses as a food source, so kick starting it into action quicker. Leave the mix to stand in a warm place out of direct sunlight for 1-2 hours to allow the EM to activate more fully.

Apply at the rate of one litre per square metre. Do not store any of the made up solution. These are minimum recommended rates for use.

You can use the liquid concentrate that results from the recipe:

As a foliage application: Apply weekly using a clean sprayer and spray directly onto the plants ensuring through wetting .This should be done in early morning or late afternoon for best results and to prevent leaf scorch.

As a soil application: Give a good watering ensuring the solution fully drenches / wets the soil. Apply as required around mature plants or on open ground. When incorporating organic matter/compost into the soil, apply EM dilution to the organic matter before digging in.

No dig gardening: Cut any annual weeds, grass, or crop residues at least 5 cm from the ground and place the material on the soil as a mulch. Spray EM liquid weekly on the mulch and plants.

As a compost application: Apply to the compost heap to reduce troublesome odours and flies as well as improving the compost process and quality. Preferably spray on with a hand sprayer to prevent over wetting the compost heap and apply at each addition of fresh material if possible.

EM-based quick composting: 

Since 1999, seven small-scale organic fertilizer units have been using the EM-based quick production process in Myanmar. They are owned and operated by women’s income generation groups. A unit consists of nine pits measuring about 180 cm (length) × 120 cm (width) × 90 cm (depth), enclosed by low walls and covered with a roof.

The raw materials for organic fertilizer production are:

  • Cow dung: 2 portions
  • Rice husk : 1 portion
  • Rice husk-charcoal : 1 portion
  • Rice bran, milled : 1 portion
  • Accelerator : 33 litres of EM solution
How to make the accelerator?

One litre of accelerator is made by mixing 10 ml of EM, 40 ml of molasses and 950 ml of water and leaving it for five to seven days, depending on temperature. The solution is then added to 1 litre of molasses and 98 litres of water to obtain 100 litres of ready-to-use EM solution. This amount is enough for three pits. The EM solution functioning as accelerator reduces the composting period from three months to one month.

All the ingredients are mixed together, except accelerator. A 15 cm layer of mixture is spread in the pit and accelerator is sprinkled on it. This procedure is repeated until the pit is full. The pit is covered with a plastic sheet.

Information and Pictures compiled from: