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Secrets of 12 day composting!

Updated on July 6, 2011

Composting made easy

Typical composting efforts take a very long time to produce compost
Typical composting efforts take a very long time to produce compost

Secrets of fast composting

Composting is a process of decomposing organic material.

How can you make your compost decompose faster?

1) Bin size! 

Composting is done by microorganisms that like warmth. Bins less than 3" x 3" x 3" have trouble holding in enough heat to aid the decomposition process. Decomposition creates heat and good compost piles run at around 130F. 

Bins greater than 5"x5"x5" suffer from material compression, reducing the air flow and reducing the microbial activity in the center of the pile

Make your bit at least 3"x3"x3" and fill it up to retain heat. Use thermometer to measure temperature. If it is below 130F, troubleshoot as below. 

2) Microbial lifeforms

When starting a new compost pile, taking a bit from the middle of an existing pile and sticking it in the new pile helps jump start the decomposing lifeforms. This is especially effective if bins are of similar composition. 

Add microorganisms to the new composting pile

3) Moisture

Too much or too little moisture prevents effective composting. Ideal composting pile would be damp as a sponge and allow for enough air flow. Because of high composting temperatures, it may be steaming if too much moisture is present.

Don't allow your composting pile to dry out, add enough drainage to remove excess moisture

4) Organic composition of the pile

Decomposing organisms require carbon and nitrogen to function effectively. The brown materials are leaves, straw, wood chips - these are high in carbon. Green materials, like grass, food scraps and pure manure are rich in nitrogen. A good composting mix is 2 parts brown to one part green. This helps avoid the smell issues and ensure fastest decomposition!

Ensure your composting pile is balanced with 2 parts brown 1 part green if you want fast decomposition.

5) Ensure the surface area and air flow is sufficient

The more surface area microbes have to work on, the faster the decomposition process. Therefore, if you shred the materials you compost, they will go a lot faster. Turning compost helps ensure adequate air flow and surface area!

Shredded organic material decomposes the fastest

Turning unit

Composting turning unit, used for educational purposes
Composting turning unit, used for educational purposes

Compost turning

If you don't mind yardwork, you can get compost in as little as 12 days by turning it (5 Quick Steps to Compost by  Peter H. Johnson). Turn your compost every 3 days to move the decomposed material out of the middle of the pile and replace it with the less composted material from the outer side of the pile

Turning units help turn compost easier - it can be moved from one bin to the next with some effort

Composting bin troubleshooting

Problem: Compost is dry

Cause: Too much woody materials, not enough water

Solution: Add fresh greens and turn the compost. Shred woody materials and add water

Problem: Compost is only slightly warm in the middle

Cause: Composting pile is too small or not enough material to keep warmth

Solution: Add more plant material and turn the pile

Problem: The composting heap is damp, sweet smelling, but will not heat up

Cause: Lack of nitrogen rich greens

Solution: Add green components and mix the compost pile

Problem: The compost pile smells bad

Cause: Poor air circulation, too much water and too many greens

Solution: Add brown materials, turn the pile, do not add extra moisture


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    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 3 years ago from Germany

      Great and useful informations. I have compost pile in my garden and your hub is absolutely helpful. Thanks for sharing.