Faster Composting

Q: I convinced my husband to start composting last year, but he’s doubting me since we haven’t seen results yet. What’s the best way to speed up the composting process?

A: Convincing the rest of the family that composting is important is the biggest hurdle, so you’ve cleared that. Now, there’s no better soil amendment than compost; feeding the soil instead of the plant is what gives us the proverbial green thumb.

Anything that was once living will become compost. To convert that matter to compost quickly, keep the pile moving. Every time the compost is turned, it speeds up the process exponentially. It’s also important to have the right ratio between “green” and “brown” ingredients. Some examples of green ingredients are kitchen scraps like vegetables and fruit peelings. Leaves and dried ornamental grasses are examples of brown. Two parts green to one part brown is said to be the perfect ratio, but it depends on who you ask. A good way to achieve that is to have brown material, like leaves next to the pile. Add the appropriate amount of the leaves every time you dump in the green.

The idea is the get the pile hot; one that’s built 4 x 4 x 4 feet will reach 160 degrees Fahrenheit as the decomposition process gets underway. Since you’ve just started, your pile is probably smaller than that.

My system uses three bins made out of pallets. The first bin is filled, then the second. By the time number two is filled, number one is usually close to being ready. I’ll start filling number three and harvest the first one when it’s done.

I don’t pay any attention to the ratios and I never turn my pile because I’m not in a hurry. It will be compost when it’s ready ; my bins usually take a full year to make the wonderful rich compost I use all over the garden. One thing for sure, you’ll never have enough.

Mother Earth Gardener
Mother Earth Gardener
Expert advice on all aspects of growing.