If you’re like me, you’re on the lookout for ways to get good compost without having to use huge amounts of effort.
And the thing that is the hardest is turning the compost.
Fortunately, there are many ways to aerate the compost which don’t involve turning, and one of them involves a nifty tool called a compost aerator.
The latest one to hit my garden is the Ejwox aerator.
This is quite a lot more expensive than the one I am currently using, so I’ve been putting it through it’s paces to see if it is worth the extra cost.
What is a compost aerator anyway, and why would you use one?
Air is one of the key ingredients to making fast, good compost.
The bacteria that break down compost use oxygen to break down sugar and fats, creating energy in the process. Other microorganisms, such as fungi and physical decomposers that break down compost also need air to survive.
However, as bacteria start to break down the compost, they use up air.
By ensuring there is sufficient air for bacteria and other microorganisms, you can speed up the composting process and avoid unpleasant odors.
That’s why some composting techniques, such as the Berkely method, recommend turning the compost every other day, which frankly is far too much work!
An alternative is to use a device like a compost aerator, which is a special tool that brings air into the compost heap with less effort than turning.
What do you get?
Out of the box, you get the aerator in two pieces, one with a handle and one with a swivel.
You also get the tools you need to put it together and some simple instructions on how to do so.
How do you put it together?
Constructing the device is super quick.
You’ve got one screw and a nut. Insert the top half of the Ejwox over the bottom, insert the screw through the hole and into the nut, and screw it in.
I was expecting something a little bit flimsy from the pictures I have seen, as well as some of the reviews, but this felt to me like a reasonably sturdy device with a fair bit of heft.
There was a very slight rattle as it went into the compost, but the device also coped with well with some heavy material.
How to use it
Place the screw part of the aerator into the compost. Then hold the collar while you rotate the top of Eqox clockwise. It works just like a corkscrew.
Once you have made your way to the bottom of the compost heap, you can then screw it back out, leaving an air passage behind you.
I roped in a volunteer to demonstrate this!
Alternatively, you can pull it out to mix the contents together.
Is that effortless? Not quite, but it does depend on the material you are working with.
For example, it worked brilliantly for my insulated compost bin, but the weight of organic material in my pallet bin (which had just had a fair bit of manure added) made for harder work.
In the video above, I had grass on top and manure below, and it took a little bit of effort to pull it up.
(After disturbing the worms at the bottom of my hot bin, I did wonder if it might be better to choose the air passage method if you have mature compost at the bottom of your heap or bin!)
Ejwox v. Darlac Compost Aerator
It’s not long since I reviewed the Darlac Compost Aerator, so let’s see which one wins out here!
These Darlac work in quite a different way from the Ejwox.
After you push the Darlac into the compost, the blades open out, so you pull the bottom layer of compost up to the top.
I like both of these devices, but on balance, the Ejwox wins out here.
The Darlac is great for pallet bins, but it is a little bit too large for a small enclosed bin.
On the other hand, the Ejwox’s slender frame means it fits easily into an enclosed compost bin.
Also if you are using the Ejwox just to create air passages, it requires less effort than the Darlac, which always requires you to pull the compost up.
Also, one flaw with the Darlac is that sometimes the blades don’t open, so you have to twist it around as you pull it out to get it to function correctly.
That’s obviously not a problem with the Ejwox device!
On the other hand, the Darlac is much cheaper than the Ejwox, at least in the UK, weighing in at nearly a quarter of the cost.
Who’s it for?
The device will suit people with a medium to the large-sized compost bin and a medium-sized compost pile.
If you have a very large compost pile the device is not likely to reach the bottom.
I think most people will be able to use the device, although if you are lacking fitness you may find it harder to use with heavier materials such as manures.
You may also find that you find the device easier to use to create air pockets than use it to pull the device to the top.
How to make the most of the device
First, while it’s a great option for aerating the compost, remember it’s not a magic key that solves all composting problems!
For maximum results, you still need to ensure moisture levels are correct, that there is a mix of brown (high carbon) and green (high nitrogen) materials.
You also need to ensure there is sufficient size (or insulation) for the core to get hot.
I’d still recommend turning a compost pile at least once, as this enables you to put the outer layer to the inside (and vice versa) AND check the compost is moist enough.
However, you can use it to aerate the compost throughout the process.
One recent study suggested that air at the start of the composting process is essential for high-quality composting. So I’d start aerating the compost at an early stage, and continue doing so every few days until the compost is mature.
Aim to get the aerator right down to the bottom of the pile. If you can pull it up with the materials, do so, as that will mix materials at different stages of decomposition. However, even if you just create air passages you will still improve the composting process.
The Ejwox does the job. The handle is comfortable to hold, and the corkscrew action makes it extremely easy to create air holes in your compost heap – even heavier ones.
It also gives you the choice of simply creating air holes, or actually pulling the compost up out of the bin.
It doesn’t remove all effort, but it’s a lot easier and quicker to use than turning the compost.
However, it is harder to use with heavy material, and the size means it won’t be suitable for you if you have a very large compost heap.
Do note that if you’re based in the UK (and possibly other countries too), this is quite an expensive device. I
n fact, I ended up buying mine from the USA and shipping it here, which proved cheaper than buying it in the UK even after the shipping cost.
However, for US composters, this device is far more reasonable and makes a great alternative to turning the compost.