How to Compost: The Basics

What can be composted?

Anything that was once living vegetation can be composted.

How do you compost it?

If you throw it all in a heap, it will compost.

How long will it take?

If you do exactly as stated above, it can take 2-4 years for your heap to turn to compost.

How do I speed up the process?

There’s a right way to compost and there’s a better way to compost.

Like anything else, composting requires action.  If you don’t get your composting started, you will never have compost.  Composting is a very simple process that happens in nature without any human intervention.  You don’t have to be a scientist to compost.

No doubt, you want to be able to utilize your compost later this year, or sometime next year.  You don’t have to wait several years for your compost to be ready for the garden.

Tips and Techniques Available for Speeding up the Composting Process

1.  Use the right materials.

Try to maintain a one to one ratio (by weight) of equal portions of carbon materials and nitrogen materials.  Carbon materials consist of browns, such as dry leaves, shredded paper and wood products and hay or straw.  Nitrogen materials are the greens, such as kitchen food scraps, lawn clippings, and manure.

2.  Your compost needs air.

Providing adequate ventilation or regular turning will prevent your compost from being overcome by foul odors.

3.  Watch the temperature.

There is an optimal temperature that encourages bacterial activity required for quick decomposition.  That falls between about 90 and 135 degrees F.  In colder climates, you should maximize solar temperature by placing your pile in a location that is exposed to sunlight, or by storing the compost in black colored bins.

4.  Maximize the surface area.

Chipping and shredding the clippings into smaller pieces provides more surface area for micro-organisms to feed.  That will promote quicker decomposition.

5.  Provide proper moisture content.

Compost that is too dry is slow to decompose.  Compost that is too wet can become overly smelly.  Regulate the compost to a level of about 50 percent which, as a general rule, is about like a damp sponge.

If you are considering getting into composting on any scale, there are many tools at your disposal for you to simplify your project.  Keep in mind that there is no wrong way to compost, just the right way and a better way.

Helping Nature to Run its Course

Purchasing a good compost tumbler is the easiest method of creating the proper environment for creating compost. Just drop in a few shovels full of a good mix of greens and browns, add the proper amount of moisture, and turn the compost to mix it up regularly. I’ve seen the composting happening in as little as 2 to 3 weeks with this method.

I’m always interested in ways to accomplish my goals in the shortest amount of time and with the least possible effort. For me, that means the use of a compost tumbler.

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