We live in a world where being impatient is already considered a superpower – most of us can’t wait for something exciting and interesting to happen. This greatly applies to composting – a kind of process where we keep various materials and ingredients that we no longer need inside a composting bin and hope that it deteriorates into healthy soil fertilizer.
With that said, most of us wonder: how to make compost faster? That’s what we are going to cover in this article. Compost is always a long process which usually takes about 3 months or so. However, it depends on the process, the kind of compost materials you put in, the environmental conditions, and so forth.
Let’s look into some factors that will make your compost deteriorate faster so you can start using it for your garden right away.
Consider a bigger compost heap
Contrary to popular belief, a larger compost bin and heap will result in faster composting because you have more material cramped in there.
Here’s an analogy – suppose you’re stuck in a mall or grocery store that has air conditioning. You’ll notice that when there are too many people around you, the air conditioner gets significantly weaker. On the other hand, during the pandemic, when fewer people are out in the grocery store, you’ll notice that the air conditioner gets colder.
Applying this principle, we can conclude that a bigger compost heap will generate much more heat since they are closer together and tightly-packed. If you have trouble trying to gather a big compost pile, you can ask your neighbors for help – why not form a sort-of community or neighborhood compost instead? Not only will you have much more compost to use, but you’ll also get closer to your neighbors.
The considerable size for a compost bin should be around 4 x 4 feet of area. Look for all sorts of compostable items around your house and neighborhood and then have your neighbors work on an effort to dump the items into the compost bin.
Look for better or suitable materials
The materials that you use for composting greatly decide whether or not your compost heap or pile will deteriorate faster. Carbon-rich materials (brown) are more advisable and the ratio with nitrogen materials (green) should be observed. Compost experts recommend more carbon materials than nitrogen ones (30:1 ratio).
Here are some great materials to put in your compost pile to speed up the process:
1. Brown cardboard
Because cardboard is a common landfill problem, composting will be a great help to the environment. Cardboard can come from the simplest food packaging so it’s not hard to find them in your household trash. The safe cardboards you can compost are those that are used in delivery packaging.
With that said, cardboard that has a glossy or print on it would not be ideal for composting. That’s because you don’t know what kind of chemicals it has and it might not do well on the soil. Most of them have dyes and even heavy metals from processing.
If you plan on composting paper towels or tissue, you can also toss in the core, which is the cardboard material that’s in the middle. It is a kind of carbon-rich material that will go just fine in your compost heap and speed up the process.
2. Unbleached paper
When we say unbleached paper, we mean paper that doesn’t use artificial dyes or inks nor has it been bleached or whitened. When manufacturing paper from wood pulp, it gets bleached to maintain a pristine white color.
Unfortunately, most people in the past don’t buy brown paper products because they say it looks ugly, so manufacturers went into the practice of bleaching paper for easy reading and spotting documents. However, with the growing demand and consciousness of the side effects of bleaching to the environment, many manufacturers are now resorting to unbleached paper.
Unbleached paper is not only limited to paper products – but it could also include unbleached paper towels, tissues, and the like. Many restaurants now use unbleached tissues to help the environment from getting dangerous toxins from chlorine.
If you are a business owner, consider switching to eco-friendly tissues so that they are still somehow compostable. That’s because paper towels and tissues that are unbleached and were only used to clean up food mess are suitable for composting (unless they are very greasy).
If you do want to compost paper, make sure that it is shredded properly to easily deteriorate in your compost bin. Most offices use a paper shredder for this purpose – but, as we mentioned earlier, not all paper is healthy for the soil.
3. Pruned leaves and sticks
A garden compost in a backyard will most likely be composed of pruned leaves and sticks. They are rich in carbon and are therefore a common mainstay in any compost heap or bin. When you are trimming your garden plants and removing excess or dried leaves, you can put them into your composting area as a carbon-rich addition to your mix.
Since leaves and sticks are organic, you don’t have to worry about removing anything from them. Make sure that you do complement them with a nitrogen source, such as grass clippings (mentioned below).
Other than twigs and branches, you can also put in sawdust and wood chips, especially if you are a woodworker or a casual weekend warrior for DIY projects involving wood.
4. Leaves and clippings
Now that you already have your carbon source, which includes the leaves and the sticks, it’s time to add the nitrogen source. Leaves and clippings from mowed or trimmed grass make a great addition to your compost to speed up the process.
Other than grass clippings, you can also include food scraps from fruits and vegetables. If you have fruit peels and vegetable stems, they are suitable for your compost bin.
Farm and stable materials
If you live on a farm, you have a plethora of resources to increase the speed of your compost processing. For instance, stable wastes from goats, chickens, horses, and the like, are suitable for composting – with the right process. That’s because there could be weed seeds that lurk in them, so consider hot composting for that.
Aside from that, pig and chicken manure are also a little on the warm side so they need to have a specific temperature to avoid ruining the nitrogen composition of the compost. We think that goat manure is the best option if you want to make use of your stable waste for your compost mix.
Goat bedding made from straws seems to be a great candidate for compost material. Moreover, any stable straw, sawdust, or hay is a suitable addition for composting since it is a good source of carbon. Just make sure to balance it out with a suitable source of nitrogen at hand.
Chicken coop cleanings are also an option, provided that you process it properly. Chicken manure has been traditionally used for fertilizing the soil due to its nitrogen content, as well as potassium and phosphorus. Hot composting is the best choice for chicken manure but it also needs about 45 to 60 days of curing before adding to your garden, especially if it is a vegetable garden.
Ensure proper moisture for the compost
Keeping the compost moist is important to make sure it will decompose the items properly. With that said, you also wouldn’t want too much moisture because that will decrease the heat of the compost. When this happens, the decomposing process will also slow down, resulting in a long time to degrade.
Measuring the moisture of compost can be done with a simple sponge-like test. Squeezing the compost should result in a similar consistency to a sponge. If a lot of water comes out of it, consider adding more dry materials to lessen the humidity of the compost. Good examples of such materials include shredded paper, dried leaves, or brown cardboard.
However, if it gets incredibly dry, such as in the summer, the moisture levels could also drop. With this problem, it’s just a matter of spraying it with water for each layer so that there is even moisture throughout the compost. When you treat dry compost with water, make sure to turn it in carefully to not release harmful bacteria.
Consider using hot water
To help increase the temperature of dry compost, adding hot water, especially at night, will help to speed up the process. Just make sure that the hot water isn’t enough to burn the compost materials.
However, to make sure that your compost materials will remain safe put the hot water inside a container, such as a water bottle. This will ensure that the temperature will remain constant, especially in the colder season in your area.
Although this action will not take effect on the first day, by repeating it for 2 to 3 days, you will keep the temperature constant even at night.
Add aeration and turn the compost properly
A compost that has more aeration or air spaces will deteriorate faster. Including sticks, shredded paper, and simply turning your compost regularly will help add aeration. The recommended schedule for turning your compost is 3 to 4 days (small tumbler) or up to 7 days (large compost pile).
You can also put some twigs at the bottom so that it will not only get sufficient aeration but also helps with draining excess moisture. When your moisture and air inside the compost bin are balanced, it will help speed up the process of breaking down the materials.
Turning the compost pile regularly will also have other benefits, such as lessening the foul odor. You not only have an evenly-heated compost pile but it will also smell less pungent.
Cut and divide your material
One common beginner’s mistake that most people make when they try to compost at home is that they don’t break the material into smaller pieces.
By all means, break your twigs, leaves, eggshells, paper, cardboard, and the like into smaller pieces. This will help them decompose much faster. You can use a lawnmower for grass clippings, a blender or food processor for eggshells, a paper shredder, or a dedicated compost shredder. Or, you can just use a good old pair of garden shears to cut your material.
Try adding old compost
If you’ve already done compost a while ago, try adding that to your present compost to help kick start the process. That’s because finished compost already harbors a couple of good bacteria that have already decomposed the previous batch into healthy soil fertilizer.
By adding a teaspoon or so of the old compost into your new compost, you are already putting millions of bacteria to help speed up the composting process.
Check the temperature regularly
A compost pile should have a temperature of 135 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit (57 to 71 degrees Celsius). To ensure that the temperature remains the same, you can put a cover on your compost bin or just tightly seal it.
Moreover, using a compost thermometer will help you to measure the right temperature for your compost pile. If you intend to put manure from farm animals, you’ll need to keep it at a high temperature to kill the weed seeds.
Try a compost duvet
If your temperatures drop often and you can’t find a good source of heat, especially at night, covering your compost with specially-designed duvets will help speed up the process.
Many manufacturers of compost bins already come with custom-made compost duvets but you can also make one on your own. Bubble wrap from delivery packaging is also a good choice since it can insulate your compost pile. However, if you prefer to go green, consider organic materials such as cloth.
In the long run, making compost faster is all about technique when it comes to adding materials, keeping a good moisture level, maintaining a proper temperature, and aerating or turning the compost pile. However, in general, composting takes a lot of patience. We wish you the best in your composting activity!