Add As You Go Composting - What Is Passive Composting

Plate Of Food Going Into The Compost Pile
(Image credit: Pixavril)

Compost experts have a lot of rules for the process. They warn that failing to do each step properly will result in a smelly, moldy pile of waste. This is not necessarily true. If you lack a compost heap, tumbler, or 3 bin system, don't despair. You can use cold composting for an easy solution. This type of add as you go compost pile won't break down as quickly as a hot compost heap, but you can still reap the rewards in time. 

What is Passive Composting? 

What is passive composting? It is add as you go composting, and the process is as it sounds. A passive compost pile will break down slower in cooler temperatures but the little bacteria and microbes will still do their work. The result takes longer than traditional methods but is a good way to reuse yard and kitchen scraps in the winter or cooler seasons. 

A passive compost pile allows you to use up yard and kitchen scraps as they occur. Because you are continuously adding to the pile, the composting material doesn't heat up like a traditional system. An add as you go compost pile still needs the right proportion of greens and browns ( nitrogen and carbon) to work but it doesn't require you to layer evenly. Just make sure you have plenty of browns to offset the wet greens and keep the pile from being too moist. As with any compost pile, avoid animal fats, waste, and bones. The process can take 3 to 6 months, which is quite a bit longer than a hot compost system. 

How to Make an Add As You Go Compost Pile

Cold composting is beautiful in its simplicity. The passive compost pile can be in the form of trenches in the garden, tumblers, bins, or just heaps on the ground. The unit you use will dictate if you are adding kitchen scraps. Open systems will attract rodents and birds, so it might be best to stick with garden waste. Because they don't heat up much, avoid weed seeds which will not compost adequately. Build the pile as material is available, taking care to balance the nitrogen and carbon properly. 

Maintaining Add As You Go Composting

There are few hard and fast rules on keeping up a cold compost system. In order to speed things up and avoid dry and wet spots, turn the compost frequently. As with any compost pile, keep it moderately moist but not soggy. The items that are added will decompose more quickly if chopped small. However, if there are whole items, such as an apple, don't fret. It will compost but will take longer than apple pieces. Keep a layer of brown material on the top of the pile to prevent flies from laying eggs. That's all there is to it. This is an easy and convenient way to get rid of yard and kitchen waste.

Bonnie L. Grant

Bonnie Grant is a professional landscaper with a Certification in Urban Gardening. She has been gardening and writing for 15 years. A former professional chef, she has a passion for edible landscaping.