How to Speed up Composting: Tips from Professionals

In this post, we've discussed the steps you need to take to speed up your composting process.
Nora Held
Nora Held
Research Writer
Apart from being our main writer, Nora also works for a number of gardening-related sites and magazines, sharing her experience as an owner of a small farm in North Carolina read more
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Bruce Williams
Bruce Williams
Expert Consultant
Bruce owns a small farm and loves to grill since his early childhood. He’s a professional cook, but hiking and enjoying the great outdoors is his no less favorite part of read more
Last updated: August 17, 2023 is reader-supported. We may earn a commission through products purchased using links on this page. Learn more about our process here

Compost takes quite a while before it’s ready for use. Well, that’s for an unbalanced and untended compost. While you can leave your compost to go through the natural process of taking months or years to be ready, you can also boost the speed. The knowledge of how to do this is essential, especially if you only have a few weeks or months to wait, which is why in this post, we will be sharing with you “how to speed up composting.” After knowing how to do this, you won’t have to wait for a long time before having good quality compost anymore. Now, let’s ride!

Best Ways to Compost Faster

There are 16 ways to make your compost faster. We will be discussing each of them in the next series of paragraphs.

Adding a Layer of Branches

How to Speed up Composting: Tips from Professionals

The first step how in speeding up composting is to add a layer of branches. The additional branches should be put at the bottom of your compost pile. Putting branches at the bottom traps air in the compost pile, and this allows for aerobic composting, which aids in the removal of excess water.

Aerobic composting is more efficient than anaerobic composting as it increases the speed of composting, reduces odor, and preserves the sanity of the environment.

Adding Old Compost or Soil

Bacteria and fungi are among the elements that largely constitute the composting process. With a single teaspoon of fertile soil added to compost, you can find up to 100 million bacteria and 400 to 800 feet of fungi threads. With the inclusion of old compost or fertile soil, there will be plenty of bacteria and fungi to boost the composting process.

Using a Hot Water Bottle

How to Speed up Composting: Tips from Professionals

You can also boost the speed of your compost by using a hot water bottle. This can be done by getting a bottle and filling it with hot water. After that, put the bottle in the middle of the compost. There might not be changes on the first day, but from the second day, when you repeat this process, the compost will start getting hot, thereby adding warmth.

Using a Compost Duvet

While the hot water bottle creates warmth, you need a compost duvet to maintain the warmth. With the use of a compost duvet, you will keep the optimum temperature needed by the bacteria and fungi to break down organic materials.

Turning Your Compost

How to Speed up Composting: Tips from Professionals

Another tip on how to speed up composting is by turning the compost for more oxygen to penetrate into the mix. Because compost warms up towards the center, if your pile is hot, turning it will redistribute the heat throughout the pile, ensuring more consistent decomposition. Furthermore, if the pile has cooled due to the decomposition of the material in the center, turning it will allow the undecomposed materials to form a new center and reheat the pile.

To ensure that your compost pile has enough time to heat up, you should turn it over every two weeks. The best way to turn the compost pile is by preparing an empty site (preferably right next to your pile) and using a pitchfork to turn the compost materials from the present pile to the new site.

Creating Free Air Space

You have to create Free Air Space (FAS) as it allows you to achieve faster and better compost without much work. FAS, by the way, is the sum of all the openings surrounding and between particles through which air can circulate. The openings are maintained for lengthy periods of time when particles are able to build a “self-supporting” structure.

FAS allows oxygen to circulate, and microorganisms require oxygen to live and multiply, which makes oxygen to be one of the most important components in the composting process. With sufficient air, you might not even need to turn your compost pile anymore, as air will penetrate into every part.

Adding Nitrogen Rich Materials

How to Speed up Composting: Tips from Professionals

Compost microorganisms require both nitrogen and carbon to function. If there is too much carbon, the process will slow down. So, if the composting speed is slow, it could be because the quantity of nitrogen that’s available is limited. With only carbon, the pile will decompose, but it might take up to a year or more and could have some disastrous side effects.

So, you need sufficient nitrogen to balance, warm up, and speed up the composting process. Nitrogen gives microorganisms the proteins they need to thrive and multiply. Luckily, there are many free and readily available green (nitrogen-rich plant) materials that can be used. Examples are grass clippings, eggshells, fruit & vegetable waste, coffee grounds, and manure.

Furthermore, most professionals have attested to the excellence of Espoma Organic Compost Starter as well. It breaks down all forms of compost materials and boosts the speed of composting.

Getting the Moisture Ratio Right

According to Research by S.M. Tiquia, the heat of the compost reduces when the moisture level is too high, thereby slowing the composting process. It could be that the compost is too wet, and water has filled the free air spaces, resulting in the reduction of oxygen available to microorganisms, which in turn slows down the composting speed.

Therefore, another way how to speed up composting is to get the right moisture ratio. If it’s too wet, add a dry item like shredded paper or cardboard to absorb the excess moisture. It’s also a good idea to cover your compost pile when rain is falling.

Ensure that your compost pile doesn’t ever get too dry. These types of compost piles can release harmful bacteria when turned.

Using Compost Activators

How to Speed up Composting: Tips from Professionals

When you notice that the organic materials have refused to decompose, another thing you can do is to use compost activators. There are several types on the market, but most experts have recommended the use of the Roebic Compost Accelerator, which is a complete formula for composting. It’s easy to use, boosts biological activities, and is very effective in wide temperature ranges.

Adding Easily Digestive Materials

Some materials are fast in composting, while others take forever. For example, materials like grass clippings and shredded papers are very fast in composting. But materials like wood and leaves that are high in lignin are very hard to compost. So, it’s advisable that you only add materials that are easy to digest.

Reducing Material Size

The less material size there is for the bacteria to bite on, the faster the composting process. If you want to increase the speed of the composition, reduce the size of the compost materials. If the sizes of your materials are big, cutting them into parts with garden shears is a good idea. And if they are very big, you can use a lawnmower.

Increasing the Pile Volume

Larger compost piles are better than smaller compost piles. If the compost pile is small, the weather outside the pile can cool the compost quickly and prevent it from decomposing properly. The only occasion when you can use small piles is when you are using a bin. But if you are not, you should increase the volume of the pile. A standard pile should be at least 36” x 36” x 36”.

Using Berkeley Method

If the surface of your material is large, you might need to use the Berkeley technique. This technique has to do with creating a huge compost pile out of small debris and combining greens and browns (i.e., nitrogen and carbon) in nearly equal amounts. Then, you would turn the compost every 1-2 days. And the outcome will be surprising. In fact, your compost could be ready within 2-3 weeks.

Using Insulated Bin

How to Speed up Composting: Tips from Professionals

Of course, just as most gardeners, you might not have large amounts of compostable material on hand. However, with insulated bins, you would be able to compost fewer amounts of compost materials quickly (within a range of 30 to 90 days).

Adding Biochar

Biochar is a type of charcoal that is occasionally used as a soil supplement. According to research by M. Sanchez-Garcia, adding 3% of biochar to compost materials can speed up composting by 20%. It accelerates organic matter degradation and boosts nitrification.

Adding Worms

How to Speed up Composting: Tips from Professionals

You can speed up composting by introducing a large number of compost worms as long as your compost is in contact with the earth. When you add worms, they will finish off the process. But before you add worms, you have to ensure that the compost has cooled down. When the compost is too hot, worms won’t be able to move in, but when it cools down, worms will move in freely, boosting the composting process even more.

Compost worms can devour their body weight in decaying material within one day, passing it through their stomach, which contains 1000 times more microbial life than the food they eat. Worms can also assist in the removal of germs from compost. While worms might not yield immediate effects, the longer you allow them to feed on your compost, the better.

Final Thoughts

While fast composting may seem like magic, the decomposition of your compost pile is the result of your effort, i.e., the implementation of the steps above and the voracious appetite of the microorganisms that live in it. Microorganisms consume your compost and release heat in the process, resulting in nitrogen, phosphorus, and magnesium that are like gold in the garden. However, it’s important that you provide a healthy environment for them to speed up the composting process. After implementing these steps, you would definitely not have a problem with how to speed up composting anymore, as everything that you need has been stated. As of now, what is left is for you to get to work.

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