Composting is a process that occurs naturally as organic materials breakdown in the landscape. This process can be expedited by balancing the ingredients and maintaining air circulation to create a healthy environment for bacteria, actinomycetes and fungi work to decompose different compost particles and thrive at various temperatures. Psychrophilic bacteria are most active when the temperature is around 55 degrees F. As these bacteria work, they generate some heat creating a warmer environment for the mesophilic bacteria which prefer 70 to 100 degrees F. Thermophilic bacteria prefer even hotter temperatures and take over the decomposing work when the pile reaches between 100- and 160-degrees F. After their work is done and the temperature leaves the preferred range, the microorganisms die off.
Actinomycetes are important to the decomposition of materials such as lignin and cellulose. As the pile cools down, actinomycetes and fungi take over along with invertebrates such as earthworms and centipedes. These are considered “finishers” in the composting process.
The heating and cooling process of composting is what supports the life cycle of the microbes and expedites decomposition. Next week’s article will include details about what is needed to make a compost pile. Follow the link below for more information about compost microbes. https://calrecycle.ca.gov/organics/homecompost/microbes/ (Cynthia Domenghini)