How to Speed Up Composting

How To Speed Up Composting

Are you having trouble getting your compost to mature in the shortest possible time? If you’re wondering how to speed up composting, stick around, because in this article you will be learning ways to quicken the organic process. All it takes is some good practice! At the end of this read, your composting skills will improve dramatically!

Whether it’s kitchen scraps, dried leaves from your garden, a bunch of twigs laying around, or other organic materials you have, you can transform these into compost in record time. But while making compost may seem like a piece of cake, getting them to mature fast is another question. 

The truth is, if you want to know the secret to good and speedy compost production, you have to have a good understanding of the decomposition process and everything that has to do with compost generation. And this is what this article seeks to achieve.

Microorganisms can be found just about everywhere – be it your skin, outside, mobile phones, furniture, or kitchen waste. These organisms are the reason for the decomposition process that leads to the formation of compost. They do the heavy lifting in producing the compost we need.

That is not to say you cannot influence the composting rate by giving these organisms the right environment! 

Getting Started

We are going to keep it understandable and straightforward, starting with the basics. 

You need four essential ingredients to develop compost material. To begin the decomposition process, you’ll need what is referred to as the Browns (carbon sources such as small sticks, dead leaves), Greens (nitrogen-rich produce such as fruit scraps and vegetable waste), Oxygen, and Water. All of which should be in the right proportion. Let’s take a closer look at each of these necessary components:

  • Browns (Carbon): The source of energy required by microorganisms that give off heat in the process.
  • Greens (Nitrogen): These are nitrogen-rich materials that aid in the growth and reproduction of organisms. Examples are fruits and vegetables.
  • Oxygen: For aeration and life support of microorganisms.
  • Water: Water aids activities when introduced into the compost at the appropriate quantity. It prevents congestion which is implicated in anaerobic conditions.

Microorganisms and Why They’re Important for Composting

In simple terms, microorganisms are living organisms that are minute in size. The word “micro” is used to describe objects or organisms that are not visible to the naked eye. These organisms are responsible for breaking down organic matter to compost. There are different types of microorganisms present in an active pile of compost. 

Some of the most common examples are:

  • Bacteria: Bacteria are easily the most prevalent microorganism found in compost. You might find them in different forms depending on the type or stage of compost – Mesophilic (decomposition under moderate temperature) or thermophilic (decomposition under higher temperature).
  • Actinobacteria: If you find out your bark or paper products are easily broken down, this is probably the culprit.
  • Yeast and Fungi mold: These bad boys step in when bacteria cannot break down materials such as lignin in woody material and saves the day. Hurray!
  • Protozoa: These are predatory microorganisms, feeding on bacteria, fungi, and other micro-organic tissues and debris
  • Rotifers: Thinking of population control? Think Rotifers. These microorganisms help in curbing the population explosion of bacteria and small protozoans.

Types of Compost

You should note that we have two types of compost methods based on their nature of decomposition:

  • Anaerobic Compost: Decomposition occurs in the absence or limited supply of oxygen.
  • Aerobic Compost: Decomposition occurs in the presence of oxygen.

What Composting Method Should I Use? 

Generally, Aerobic composting is faster than Anaerobic composting. It has minimal odor and is more environmentally-friendly. If you don’t have the luxury of time, Aerobic composting is the way to go.

Why Should I Compost? 

You might have asked yourself this question considering there is a range of available on-the-shelf alternatives, but rest assured, this activity is as enjoyable as any other gardening hobby you may love. 

The following are some of its advantages:

  • Environmental Friendly: When you compost, you reduce green waste that is usually being sent to landfills, reducing your methane emissions and lowers your carbon footprint. Congrats, you are saving the planet!
  • Less Chemical Exposure: With your homemade compost, you reduce the need to have more chemical fertilizers around.
  • Soil Enrichment: Compost is an excellent way to replenish nutrients in the soil, maintaining moisture, and fighting off unwanted plant diseases and pests.
  • Maintaining Balance: You encourage beneficial bacteria and fungi growth, which helps break down organic matter to create humus, a rich nutrient-filled material.

Materials You Shouldn’t Use to Compost

For the fast and efficient maturity of compost, the following materials should not be found in a pile. They will defeat the aim of composting or cause even more environmental problems; examples of such materials are:

  • Dairy products: milk, eggs, butter, and yogurt are harmful compost materials unless you wouldn’t mind dealing with a couple of infesting rodents, flies, and a load of odor problems.
  • Meat or fish bones waste: Similar to our diary product problems, scraps from meat and bones are magnets to rodents and flies, causing odor along the way.
  • Fats, grease, lard, or oils: Here is another odor-inducing agent and a center of attraction for pests like rodents and flies.
  • Infected or pest-ridden plants: Adding such materials to your compost means taking the chance of transferring back surviving pathogens to your produce.
  • Coal or charcoal ash: These might contain substances harmful to plants.
  • Trimmed grasses with pesticides: Chemical residue in them when added to your pile might kill the microorganisms needed for the compost.

Materials to Compost

Considering the long list of what not to compost, you might be wondering if there are still any domestic composting materials left. But not to worry, as the list below are suitable candidates:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Eggshells
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Teabags
  • Nutshells
  • Shredded newspaper
  • Cardboard (small pieces)
  • Paper
  • Garden trims and cuts
  • Grass clippings
  • Houseplants
  • Hay and straw
  • Leaves
  • Sawdust
  • Wood chips
  • Cotton and Wool Rugs
  • Dryer and vacuum cleaner lint
  • Hair and fur
  • Fireplace ashes

Tools for Composting

Before you can begin composting, the following is a list of items you will be needing:

  • Garden bin
  • Compost material or ingredients
  • Shovel or garden pitchfork
  • Gloves
  • Thermometer
  • Face mask

How to Compost Correctly and Speedily

Here, we will be employing the Hot Container (Aerobic) Compost method which employs heat in increasing the rate of decomposition; hence, quicker and faster compost is produced between 14 – 21 days. 

  • Introducing your Ingredients

While we know compost materials contain carbon and nitrogen in varying quantities, getting the right ratio and finding the right balance for the decomposition boils down to using the right amount of “greens” and “browns”. It also helps maintain airflow and moisture (water) content to get the best yield in the shortest time possible.

The ideal Carbon-Nitrogen ratio for the pile is 30:1. That means 30 parts of carbon for every one amount of nitrogen. A mixture imbalance is bound to have adverse effects. For instance, too much carbon means the compost becomes too dry which takes longer to breakdown while too much nitrogen creates a slimy, wet, and foul-smelling pile.

Browns: Carbon is an essential food source for decomposing microorganisms, keeping them alive while breaking down waste. They are a necessary element for all life forms and can be found in brown part material. Some examples are dead leaves, twigs, and branches.

Greens: These are the primary life building material responsible for growth and reproduction in both animals and plants. The presence of greens in your pile means decomposers grow and reproduce quickly. Some greens available around the house are fresh grass/leaves and food scraps.

Oxygen: Oxygen is essential for life ─ this is true for both plants and animals, and compost is no different as the microorganisms involved in the breakdown process rely on it to survive. To guarantee an efficient and fast process, there is a need to ensure enough aeration is happening within the pile. You can achieve good airflow by ensuring that the materials are small and by routinely turning the pile over.

Water: Water is needed for the survival of microorganisms in an ideally moist compost pile and to help speed up the decomposition process.

  • Location

Compost should be ideally stored in a dry and covered spot. Find a location with adequate ventilation, drainage, and minimal exposure to direct sunlight. This is to avoid dampening or dehydrating the pile.

  • Method

The following steps will help you start your composting pile:

Step 1: Add thin layers of greens and browns in alternating sequence in a 30:1 carbon to nitrogen ratio.

Step 2: Place at the bottom, a layer of twigs to enable aerobic activity by trapping air in the compost and draining excess water. End it with the browns being the topmost layer.

Step 3: Introducing microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi into the compost is essential as they are responsible for breaking down the material. This assists in starting the decomposition process.

Step 4: Create some warmth by pouring steaming hot water into a water bottle and add the water bottle into your piled-up compost.

Step 5: Periodically check the temperature with a compost thermometer to ensure the temperature is between 113 – 149 degrees Fahrenheit. Low temperature leads to slow decomposition while too high of a temperature kills off beneficial microorganisms.

Step 6: Wet it moderately. Studies by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) suggest that having too high water content causes a drop in heat and slows down the composting process. To check this, you can take a sample from the compost material and squeeze it. The moisture content should be roughly consistent with that of a squeezed sponge.

Step 7: Cover the top of compost using a tarp to keep it moist and allow it to decompose for the first 2 – 3 days. Afterward, you can regularly turn it over for optimal aeration.

Helpful Tips

  • Is your compost losing heat? You can always rectify this with the addition of worms and microbes at an early stage. It is known that the Red Wriggler (compost worm) can consume its body weight in less than 24 hours, helping to remove pathogens that might be harmful.
  • Is your compost losing heat? You can always rectify this with the addition of worms and microbes at an early stage. It is known that the Red Wriggler (compost worm) can consume its body weight in less than 24 hours, helping to remove pathogens that might be harmful.
  • Is your compost losing heat? You can always rectify this with the addition of worms and microbes at an early stage. It is known that the Red Wriggler (compost worm) can consume its body weight in less than 24 hours, helping to remove pathogens that might be harmful.

Keeping Rodents and Insects Away

Understandably, no one wants an invasion of unwanted animals into their compost. This is especially true of rats and house flies which are popular disease vectors. Preventive ways to combat these challenges are listed below:

  • Do not add meat or dairy products to your compost.
  • When adding fruits and vegetable scraps, ensure they are buried in other compost ingredients, and the system heats up fast enough to have them broken down quickly.
  • Food scraps should not be left exposed. Instead, you should cover them in a layer of browns (e.g. dead leaves, wood shavings, soil)

If you have a sense of adventure, you could set up an efficient and straightforward trap for those annoying fruit flies using a soda bottle, knife, and some vinegar. With the knife, cut the bottle in half, pour the vinegar in to about 20 millimeters of the lower half. 

Remove the lid from the upper half and invert into the lower half, creating a funnel-like shape leading into the bottle. The flies will be attracted to the vinegar and will get trapped or drowned. 

Potential Rules and Regulations

Ensure that you are safety compliant before and during your compost. This is not limited to handling waste; it also entails adhering to your local community regulations (if any), and personal and general hygiene. 

Also, watch out for health hazards by ensuring that you suffer from no condition or have any allergic reaction or infection that could be triggered by your composting activity. Share and inform your household members of your activities.

Keep children away, especially when there are no adults in sight. Kids are more susceptible to diseases and infections.

Final Thoughts

Next time you are worried about how to go about making quick and nutrient-rich compost, remember your browns, greens, water, and oxygen. With that in mind, you are on your way to increasing soil quality, improving the environment, and helping to improve the world around you.

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