Make Compost Fast With These Easy Tips
Make Compost Fast Using a Compost Bin
We all know that composting your yard and kitchen waste is the right thing to do, both for your garden soil and your community, state, country, and our planet. If you've never composted before, it may sound like a lot of work or even complicated - it's not. Using these simplified guildlines along with resources to get started composting will have you composting with low effort and high yields.
What Materials Do I Need To Compost?
What can you put in a compost pile?
- Kitchen waste (vegetables and fruit scraps)
- Yard Waste (grass cuttings, weeds)
- Garden Waste (finished plants trimmed plants, i.e. carrot or beet tops)
- "Borrowed" Waste (coffee grounds)
Just as important, do NOT put these items in:
- Grease, fats
- Dairy products
Where Do I Start the Compost Pile?
You will need someplace to put the material that's composting. Here are some typical places to start a pile:
- A plain, simple pile of material
- A trench
- A "nest"
- A simple bin built from wood or concrete blocks
- A commercial composting bin
- A compost tumbler
What Is the Compost Recipe?
A basic compost recipe to follow
If you are into numbers, a pile built with a carbon to nitrogen ratio of about 30 is considered optimum. Most folks aren't interested in calculating that, so a good rule of thumb is to use about a 50/50 mix of green vegetation (grass clippings, fresh vegetation, coffee grounds - oddly they count as "green") mixed with brown waste (fall leaves, sawdust, shredded tree branches).
Anything you do to break up the raw material (e.g. shred it, chop it, etc.) will work to accelerate the process.
Mix them in layers, about 6 inches of green and brown alternated. Add enough water so the end product mix is damp, like a damp washcloth. It is possible to have either too much or too little water. Add in some old compost or just soil (or a commercial compost activator product) to provide a source of the micro-organisms that will start to compost the pile.
Which Method Should I Use To Get Results In the Quickest Way?
You will have to decide on the time and speed tradeoff for your compost pile output.
If you really want to get compost fast, then you need to help the pile along by moving material into the hotter middle part of the pile periodically. This can be accomplished a number of ways:
- Use a compost aerator tool like the compost crank to turn the compost in a single bin
- Use multiple bins, and turn the compost from one bin to the next to turn it over
- Use a compost tumbler, and simply turn the unit periodically.
Or you can just leave it for a few months and it will eventually break down.
There is nothing like harvesting that black gold compost and adding it to your spring garden planting. It's a rich feeling that you did something good for the earth (recycling all that kitchen waste) and returned it to the earth. In this green world, that's what it's all about!
Moisture is the Key
The moisture content of your compost pile is the most important factor to it's success. Sun is important too, but think of the forest floor where composting happens in it's richest form. Not much sun there. Also remember, you must have grass clippings or leaves in order for the "recipe" to work!
Pros and Cons of Compost Tumbers
Compost tumblers are the ultimate composting tool. They allow you to make compost quickly, and a tumbler often requires less work.
Here are some pros and cons of compost tumblers.
Easy Rotation of Your Compost Pile
The key to quick composting is to work the pile every few days, to get all the waste material to get to the hot center of the pile. This active center is where the action is, but it can be difficult to get all the material into the middle of the pile. Simply spinning or rotating a tumbler is the easiest way to get this done.
Conserving Compost Pile Moisture
With its enclosed sides, a tumbler will do a better job of retaining moisture in hot dry weather. It will also keep excess moisture out during the rainy season. A pile that's too wet can be a smelly pile.
Compost tumblers, especially those that stand above ground, make it hard for rodents and other pests to get into the waste pile, not to mention the food you have stored there.
Ease of loading/ unloading
This varies a lot based on the individual composter design. A higher mounted design will be easier to unload into a wheelbarrow. Some of the roll around varieties are easier to put material in to, but if you don't dump the material out directly into the garden then it may be more difficult to unload.
Many gardeners like the looks of a freestanding compost pile, but many people prefer the look of an enclosed bins to keep the pile out of view.
Alfalfa, algae, clover, coffee grounds, food waste (egg shells), garden waste, grass clippings, hay, hedge clippings, hops (used), manures, seaweed, vegetable scraps, and weeds (without seeds on them).
Ashes from wood, bark, cardboard shredded, corn stalks, fruit waste, leaves, newspaper shredded, peanut shells, peat moss, pine needles, sawdust, stems and twigs shredded, straw, vegetable stalks.
When Is The Compost Ready?
After layering and turning and "cooking" all your compost ingredients, how do you know when it is ready to use? Simple: when all the original sources of organic matter are no longer recognizable in their original form, your compost is ready. You should have a rich, black dirt coming from the bottom of your pile. If you find material like sticks or stalks not yet broken down; just put them back on the top of the pile. Otherwise, Mother Nature has done her job and you have recycled and are ready to reuse components that would have otherwise been discarded in a landfill.
Kitchen Food Scraps
Get In the Habit
It's so easy to add your kitchen scraps to your compost pile. When you are cooking just keep a pile of the discarded parts of vegetables or fruits and also egg shells off to the side or in a bowl or on a plastic bag (that you just likely took the vegetable out of!). After you are finished, scoop them up and put them in a container just outside your door. I use a small wooden bucket just outside our back door because it's a 100-foot walk from our door to our garden. Then every time I go out to that side of the yard I just pick up the bucket by it's handle and bring it with me to the compost pile. One Thanksgiving, we must have put four buckets of scraps on the compost pile and just think how much room that left in the kitchen trash and how much better it is for the earth!
You can also use a kitchen compost container to store your scraps in until you are ready to head out to the pile. It used to be these could get pretty ripe smelling, but now they are made to foster the odors. My sister-in-law uses one daily.
Baskets, Buckets, Containers
Once you start gardening, you will find containers a plenty in your possession. Most are recyclable but I keep them to use when weeding, harvesting, and since they have drainage holes already in them, you can just rinse off your harvest before bringing in the house.
If you enjoy bargains, look for baskets at yard sales and thrift stores.
More Tips to Speed Up Your Compost Bin
You can always take the slow road, most things will eventually compost over time. Even the largest fallen trees in the middle of the forest eventually decompose. However if you are interested in having compost in just a matter of weeks, pay attention to the following items:
1) Watch the carbon to nitrogen ratio. Keep the ratio of brown to green materials at about 2:1.
2) Use a chipper or a shredder to break down the raw material.
3) Turn your pile often. Simply turning the compost pile with a compost turner or pitchfork will do the trick.
4) Monitor the moisture level of the compost pile. The material of a working compost pile should feel like damp sponge. If you let it dry out, things stop working.
If you can't get the pile started you might try a compost starter.
Use these tips to jump start your compost pile, and you should have "black gold" in no time!
Other Recycling Tips
Getting Yourself Green
In addition to our organic composting, we also recycle paper, plastic and cans. We bring the papers to our church where they have four community recycling bins and the money goes to a charity. We recycle our plastic and cans through our waste management service. This small effort greatly reduces our trash pickup. As an example, when all of our kids were living at home we had the largest family on our cul-du-sac. We also had the least amount of trash.
At the holidays we do our best to use recycled bags, boxes, and even tissue paper. One year, my daughter used the color pictures of a newspaper to wrap some gifts.
Don't delay - do it today!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2007 Joanie Ruppel