How to Compost Faster

I HAVE A TUMBLING COMPOSTER, which comes in handy. It makes it easy to turn the materials so that the compost is properly aerated and working. But what I really like about the tumbler is that it keeps the tasty stuff away from the varmints that would otherwise scatter kitchen scrapes around my backyard. I’ve written all about the advantages and disadvantages of a tumbler in the article called Do Tumbling Compost Bins Work.

The advantages aside, I’ve found that a compost pile on the ground decomposes faster than in a tumbler. But this is only true if you maintain the pile at the optimum conditions. For example, you need to make sure it’s turned about once a week and kept at the proper moisture level. The Ohio State University Extension’s paper called Composting at Home is probably the best sources of information I’ve found on the optimum conditions for compost. It discusses all aspects of backyard composting.

Both methods have merits

Since both tumbler and pile methods have merits, I’ve decided to take advantage of both. I’ll start my compost in the tumbling bin and keep it there until the skunks, mice and other troublemakers are no longer interested. Then, when it’s decomposed enough, I’m going to move it to a pile on the ground.

At this point, I’m still going to do all the same things I have been doing to maintain a healthy pile. I’m going to:How to Compost Faster

1. Maintain a materials ratio of 60% brown (high carbon) to 40% green (high nitrogen)
2. Keep moisture levels in the pile “sponge wet”
3. Try to keep the volume at around three feet cubed (27 cu. ft.; 3-4 ft. tall)
4. Add a little finished compost to the pile to add microorganisms
5. Turn the pile once a week to maintain an air supply for the microorganisms

If you are doing all these things, I don’t think you need Compost Accelerators*, which claim to increase the “burn rate” by either adding nitrogen as a food source for the microbes or more microbes to the pile.

Helpful things I’m not doing

There are some other things I’m not doing that could potentially speed the process. I’m not going to add urine to my pile, which adds urea, a good source of nitrogen. Sorry, I just won’t do it.

Carbon to Nitrogen Ratio
Food Wastes 15:1
Saw Dust, Wood Paper 400:1
Straw 80:1
Grass Clippings 15:1
Leaves 50:1
Fruit Waste 35:1
Rotted Manures 20:1
Cornstalks 60:1
Alfalfa Hay 12:1
Source: OSU Extension

I also won’t shred all my materials. Shredding increases the amount of surface area that the microorganisms can work on, resulting in a more efficient pile. Some of my materials will be shredded, but some will be whole. I know it takes longer for the non-shredded materials to decompose, but I would rather have the weather and the microbes do the work.

I’m betting that putting the material on the ground will speed things up enough. I’ll let you know what the results are. If you have a composting method that is really fast, let us know by commenting below.

Related articles:

1. Composting Compostable Packaging
2. Seven Eco-friendly Ideas for the Garden
3. The Best Worm Food

*If you purchase using this link, I make a small amount of money that helps me continue to keep writing this blog.

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7 Responses to “How to Compost Faster”

  1. August 13, 2011 at 9:11 am #

    I have always wondered if those tumblers worked, but have never been willing to spend the money to find out. Now I know, and I will stick with my 3 bin compost pile. If both methods are essentially the same in outcome, then I will take the cheaper one.

    • August 13, 2011 at 9:17 am #

      Not only is it cheaper, but you’ll get finished compost faster. But, of course, you’ll need to turn it manually and deal with any varmints that can get inside.

  2. August 13, 2011 at 9:06 pm #

    Funny,i have watched about 30 video’s on composting this week.My way of composting is to leave it in a pile over the Winter.The reason being,i only have 3 to 4 months to compost.I get 10 yards of mushroom compost every year,at a cost of $3 a yard.However this year i am going to make two compost bins and put them back to back.I do find you a very interesting gardener,you tell people what you do and what you don’t do,not many people say what they don’t do.I would like to run some of the things i do by you to see what you think,but i don’t know how to contact you on here.You don’t seem to have my gardening page on here,if you Google (garden with bob) it will take you to my facebook page.It would be interesting if you would comment on some of the things i do compared to what you do.Let me know how you go on with your composter.

    • August 14, 2011 at 1:47 pm #

      Hi Bob — I’ll be sure to comment on Gardening with Bob to share some of my opinions. Watch for my comments. Also, you can contact me on the SHF partnering page at anytime. After the first time you fill out the form, you will have my email address when I respond. I check email regularly. I don’t post my email address on SHF because I’m trying to avoid spam.

  3. August 17, 2011 at 6:37 pm #

    I’m with you on the “don’t bother shredding” thing. It’s a lot of work for you, and nature will break the stuff down anyway! The longer time it takes isn’t much of an issue – I’ve found that once I get a few piles going, there’s always one that’s ready to use.

    • August 17, 2011 at 7:50 pm #

      Unfortunately we have very bad natural soil, so there’s never enough compost. I could always use more.


  1. Managing Manure: How to Use Deep Litter in Your Chicken Coop : Chelsea Green - April 3, 2012

    […] The same rules apply with the deep litter method of chicken manure management. It’s also probably better to have a coop with a dirt floor when using this method. A floor would slow down the microbes migration from the dirt to the litter. It also would prevent the compost from wicking up moisture from the ground. See my post on Making Compost Faster. […]

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