If you’re looking for low-labor methods of composting, you have multiple options. Two of the most popular options are the pit and heap method of composting.
While both of these methods involve forming a large mound of organic material, the methods have some major differences. We’ll explore the differences between the pit method and heap method, as well as some details of each method.
Short Answer: What is the Difference between Pit and Heap Method of Composting?
To put it simply, the main difference between the pit and heap method of composting is where the material is formed.
In the pit method, organic material is layered in a pit in the ground. In other words, the material is surrounded by soil as it composts.
In the heap method, organic material is layered on top of the soil surface. Therefore the material is surrounded by air rather than soil.
Types of Pit Composting
Pit composting involves composting materials in a hole in the ground. However, there are many types of pit composting. These methods differ in the materials used as well as how often the materials are turned.
The following methods are often used in areas without access to machinery or specialized tools. Since you may not produce a large amount of organic waste or have access to manure, these methods may not be practical for use at home. However, it’s always fun to learn about how different people compost!
Indian Bangalore Method
As the name suggests, this method of pit composting was developed in Bangalore, India. Organic materials such as paper waste and straw are layered with wet manure or human excrement. These layers are repeated until the pit is full.
Once the pit is full, it is left to sit for 10-15 days. During this time, aerobic decomposition occurs.
After this period of aerobic activity, the pit is sealed with a layer of mud. It is then left for 6-8 months as anaerobic decomposition occurs.
While this method takes a long time to form finished compost, it is simple to do and requires little labor and no machinery.
Indian Coimbatore Method
This method starts by laying organic wastes such as straw and vegetable scraps with manure. As in the Bangalore method, the pile is then plastered with mud and left undisturbed. During this period, the anaerobic decomposition occurs.
After 4-10 weeks, the mud is removed, and the pile is turned. At this point, aerobic decomposition begins and the compost is ready after four months.
The Indore method is one more type of pit composting that was developed in the early 1900s. It requires access to farm animals.
In this method, organic materials such as weeds, straw, and leaves are used as animal bedding. Each day the urine and manure soaked materials are removed and placed in a pit. This material is layered with a slurry made from dung, urine-soaked soil, and finished compost.
After the pit is filled, the material is turned every 15-30 days. The compost will be ready to use after about two months.
Pit Composting with Effective Microorganisms (EM)
This method relies on microbes to speed up the decomposition process. Therefore, it produces a finished product quicker than the previously mentioned methods.
A pit is filled with a mixture of plant materials and manure and a dose of effective microorganisms. The material is turned one or two times and is ready about one month after formation.
Types of Heap Composting
Heap composting is a broad term that applies to any type of composting where materials are piled up in a heap. If you form a compost pile in your backyard, you’re utilizing heap composting!
Chinese Rural Composting
In this method, plant residues and animal wastes are layered to create a heap. Bamboo poles are then inserted into the heap.
After a few days, the bamboo is removed. This creates holes in the heap which allows for aeration. After about five days, the holes are sealed with mud and decomposition continues.
The heap is then turned and sealed with mud. This process continues until the compost is ready to use, about two months after heap formation.
Berkeley Rapid Composting Method
This method of composting produces a finished compost much faster than other methods. Hence, the word “rapid.”
There are two key factors that lead to this increased rate of decomposition: shredding and turning.
All materials are finely shredded before being added to the heap. Once the heap is formed, it is turned every other day, leading to optimum aeration, temperature, and moisture. With these methods, the compost is ready in about three weeks.
Pros and Cons of Pit and Heap Composting
As you’ve read above, the terms pit composting and heap composting are quite broad. Within each method, there are lots of different varieties. However, we can still generalize some pros and cons of each of these outdoor composting methods.
- Animals and insects are less likely to disturb the composting materials
- In dry areas, the pit holds in water
- No need to dig a hole
- Material is easier to turn than in heap composting
- Excessive water can run out of the heap, lessening concerns about waterlogging
- You have to dig a pit
- Rain can lead to oversaturated material and anaerobic conditions
- Material is harder to turn than with heap composting
- Wind can cause the material to quickly dry
- Animals have easy access to the composting material
In the end, both the pit and heap method of composting are quite similar. Each method requires similar materials, and the user can be as involved as they want.
However, remember that the main difference is where this material is formed. The pit method keeps the material in the ground while the heap method keeps it above the soil surface.
Now that you know a bit more about these methods, you can choose which one better suits your needs.