Permaculture Literacy – HHA

This lesson is private, please login course to view this content :)


  • Emily Pitre says:

    I read the book Humanure over the summer and Bret I was wondering if you’ve read it as well. Since that was the first composting knowledge I really got and it stuck with me. You mentioned a few different ways to compost but I noticed you focused on the aeration for a bit. That confuses me because of your “no tilling” rule. Why is compost
    different from soil with all the bugs and worms to create natural aeration. Would it not have the same disruptive nature as it does to normal soil? And the multiple studies he did with his Humanure proved it was safe to use in the garden.

    • Bret James says:

      Such a great question Emily and an important distinction – the question is does the compost or soil become anaerobic?

      In the garden, no-till soils do not typically become anaerobic with such small amounts of organic matter decomposing on the surface, nor in a small 5 gallon humaure bucket. It’s just too small.

      But a large compost pile, say 6 feet tall, that likely will become anaerobic!

      As a reminder an anaerobic state lacks oxygen (think of a stinky stagnant pond) and these bacteria are not the beneficial aerobic bacteria that promote the soil life we want to see. The large compost piles are not natural, and therefore nature can not naturally aerate them (just like a stinky anaerobic pond).

      So, the question really is less of the need to turn the pile and more is the pile aerobic? If my piles don’t stink, and I don’t need the compost that season, I often won’t turn them, doing more of a cold composting approach.

      Another distinction is in the composting process, when doing hot composting, there is a brief period when the pile reaches maximum temps that there isn’s much soil life – BUT once the pile cools, soil life returns.

      With tilling – soil life doesn’t come back, unless compost or organic matter is added and soil is left undisturbed. The compost, organic matter basically acts as a magnet for soil life.

      The Humanure Handbook is a great book by the way!

      • Emily Pitre says:

        Thank you so much for your thorough answer! That definitely helps my thought process and understanding of the composting process.

  • Aurélie Dolbeau says:

    Hello ! What about vermicomposting (with worms) ? as we’ve seen that with the bioturbation, it is even quicker, and I’ve read that for smaller spaces, like urban composting, on balconies or the like, it’s an even better solution as it limits the smells and provides compost more quickly. Will it be covered later on on the course ? This is interesting stuffs !

  • Oakley Biesanz says:

    Great lesson! wow, I am especially interested in this list of micronutrients of weeds, I mean “Dynamic Acumulators”. Example- dandelion and lambs quarters have lots of different nutrients that I didn’t know about- and they are prolific in my yard and garden, so I REALLY need to get them in my compost. Right now I am hauling them to the local compost site because they have already gone to seed, but clearly that loop needs to be closed. I wonder if I could make a hot compost once a year for this seed issue, OR make sure I get them before they go to seed. Thanks for that info!

  • Lee Raynor says:

    A great lesson Bret! I’ll probably be need to listen to it a few more times as so much interesting information. Thanks for the additional resources, they will be helpful.

  • susan tupper says:

    the ratios of carbon to nitrogen was new to me. As much as I gardened growing up, the compost was just a pile of organic stuff thrown together. No real attention given to content and in suburbia, I just bought compost from home depot! Now I am excited to start a real compost from scratch!


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.