Pros & Cons of Open Air Composting

Open-Air-Bay-Composters
Bay System of Open Air Composting

Pros and Cons of Open Air Composting looks at the good and bad elements of this method of composting

Open Air Composting requires all of the composting elements listed in the 8 Composting Methods; especially a combination of carbon and nitrogen, air, water and vegetable scraps (optional). The open-air system can be a bay combination or a bin upturned on the ground with aeration holes in the side. The pros and cons of open-air composting are intermingled because what might be a pro to one person is a con to someone else. This method brings with it a variety of common challenges.

Open Air Composting requires

  • Monitoring
  • Watering
  • Turning
  • Spreading
  • Worms are naturally attracted to this method but will leave if conditions are not perfect.
  • Temperature is paramount to success as is pH.  If it doesn’t reach the required temperature it will not decompose or alternatively, may turn into a big slushy mess
  • The nitrogen to carbon ratio is very important in this system so it is not too dry or too wet
  • It is preferable to have 2 to 3 bays in order to rotate the compost piles and allow time for the composting process to work.  Use the oldest material first
  • Three bays also helps speed up the composting
  • An upturned bin must be filled from the top and emptied from the bottom
  • You can only put worm friendly food in both these systems but it will still attract rats
  • If you don’t have the right mix it can smell.  Fine in the country but not suburbia
  • It attracts annoying little vinegar flies often seen buzzing around the compost heap.  Again fine in the country but something you or your neighbours may not like.
  • Snakes and rats can nest and breed in the warm conditions. The rats usually attract the snakes
  • Both these systems (Bay and Gedye) take a long time to decompose
  • Turning to aerate is an essential part of this process
  • Moving a Gedye can be hard work if they are too full.
  • Turning the bays can be hard work.
  • You may need to cover them when it rains so they don’t get too wet.
  • You must spread the contents to see benefits in other parts of the garden
  • Large amounts of green waste are required to obtain only a small amount of usable compost
  • Ideal if you are a farmer and have lots of green waste to mulch with farm animal excrement
  • Great if you have the time to monitor, turn etc
  • They can use up a lot of garden space
  • Good for destroying seeds – but will only work if it reaches the required temperature
  • Have been known to catch alight if they get too hot and dry – extreme conditions
  • Can be left to sit for months at a time and eventually will turn to compost
  • Some bins have aeration holes that attract flies
  • Can smell if filled with the wrong materials and not turned regularly
  • Open air piles are great for the chooks to forage and catch food.
  • Requires spreading around your garden
  • Two to three piles are generally needed for this method to work effectively; therefore

So basically open air composting

  • Takes up a lot of space in the garden
  • Is visible
  • Requires work

8 Composting Methods
12 Things to consider when choosing a composter
Direct Composting