Composting is a great way to enhance your soil with “black gold”–nutrient-rich finished compost that makes it easy to grow great plants. Made from food scraps, dead leaves, wood chips, and the like, compost reduces waste and enhances soil without synthetic fertilizers. But, it can take anywhere from three months to two years to produce finished compost. Can the process be sped up? Yes. There are many handy ways to accelerate the process of making great compost.
Use the Right Ingredients
The first part of making great compost is to leave out the things that can ruin it. These include:
- bread products – They can attract vermin and unwanted insects.
- oils – They also attract vermin and insects; they can upset the moisture balance and they can create spoilage that leads to unpleasant odors.
- human and pet feces – Both of these carry too much of a health risk. Feces from barn animals such as cows and horses should be fine.
- coated or printed paper – These kinds of paper contain toxic chemicals. Untreated brown paper products can be added.
- meat and bones – Meat and bones rot and make compost that will have your neighbors calling the police and the health board.
- weeds – Weeds will usually take root in the compost pile.
- dairy products – they attract vermin and also stink up the compost.
- large amounts of acidic items like citrus and tomato.
Note: Citrus peels are notoriously difficult to break down because of their strong acid content.
Use Proper Proportions of Good Ingredients
Composting microbes work best in an environment that has a 20:1 ratio of carbon to nitrogen. Carbon rich substances include most brown plant products, corn stalks, straw, sawdust and dead leaves. Nitrogen rich substances include most green products and kitchen scraps, cut grass, hay, seaweed and plant prunings.
Make Your Compost the Right Size
Like reptiles, microbes do more when it is hotter. If a compost pile is too big or too small, it won’t heat up correctly. Three feet by three feet is considered the ideal size. If you elect to use a commercially available composting system, follow the directions that came with it. You can try making do-it-yourself compost bins using directions you find online or in a book.
Keep the Water and Air at the Right Level
Compost should be as damp as a wrung-out sponge. If it is too dry or too wet, the composting process will slow down. And microbes need oxygen. To keep the oxygen level ideal, compost should be turned or aerated once a week.
Increase Surface Area
The more surface area your compost has, the faster microbes will break it down. Shredding, chipping, or chopping larger items will aid the process.
Add Composting Worms
Worms can greatly accelerate composting. One of the best worms for compost is the red worm, available from a reputable online worm farm. They are very happy to live in the rich surface material of compost. It is generally believed they can generate their own weight in compost every day, but for a small home-composting system, a good estimate is to expect to get half the weight of your worms in compost everyday.
Add Compost Treet
Compost Treet is a great compost accelerator. It is made of both aerobic and anaerobic microbes that decompose plant materials and tolerate heat well. This is exactly what you want in a compost pile. It also has a rich blend of enzymes that assist in breaking down cellulose, proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Plus, it is compatible with composting worms. Compost Treet can be used indoors and outdoors.
Compost Treet works best if the daytime temperature is at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Bacteria go dormant below about 45 degrees F. If the daytime temperature is staying around 60 degrees F., the nighttime temperature should stay at around 45 so the bacteria can remain active. Higher temperatures will generate more microbial activity with the ideal range being between 80 degrees Fahrenheit and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Milk spoils quickly when left on the counter in hot weather but spoils slowly in the fridge. In the same way, the decompositional microbes found in compost reproduce themselves more rapidly when it is warm.
Composting takes patience, but accelerating the process is not difficult. Apply these strategies and you can produce great compost at home in a jiffy. Composting reduces landfill waste. It also eliminates the expense and hassle of purchasing composted materials and synthetic fertilizers.