Analyzing the Old System
For years I’ve had a compost pile in a back corner of my garden. I just threw most of my kitchen scraps out and worked them into the pile.
Rats and other critters had been getting into the pile, no matter how deep I buried the new stuff into the pile. Of course, this affects the integrity of the pile and slows the process of composting if animals are stealing the kitchen scraps!
It seemed to take forever to make finished compost. And I admit that I never watered the pile enough times, but I did toss the pile to mix things up.
In the end, I never really had a great system there, and it was just a pile with no wire or wood to enclose it. So, looking back my efforts were haphazard at best.
And I noticed more experienced gardeners and farmers would maintain a large 3’x3′ (minimum) pile within a wired enclosure and shoveled a lot of greens and browns and other stuff to activate the microorganisms needed to get the compost pile going. They were serious enough to use a long compost thermometer to take the temperature of the middle of the pile.
Finished Compost in Less Than 2 Weeks
So, there are a few sources online that suggest you can make finished compost in a shorter time than 6 months to a year. One person claimed 2 weeks to a month. Another claimed 1 to 3 months.
Some type of compost tumbler can actually accelerate the composting process by easily turning and aerating the materials. Also, the fact that the materials are being heated inside a plastic container that is being tumbled is a testament to speed and acceleration of this particular composting process.
I simply decided that it would be cost-effective to just buy a small plastic trash can, drill some holes in it, make sure the lid locks, and throw the appropriate materials in it to achieve compost very quickly.
I found a 20 gallon plastic trash can at Home Depot with a lockable lid. The Rubbermaid company offers an optional four-wheel dolly that attaches to the bottom. This makes it easier to move around and lifts the trash can so that air flows underneath it as well.
I opted to get the four-wheel dolly too.
The composting materials will heat up inside the plastic trash can. I couldn’t find a black trash can, and I settled for the available grey trash can. Black would be ideal in generating more heat, so if you can find one I’d highly recommend it. Although any plastic container will generate heat inside when exposed to sunlight all day.
The following were important rules for creating quick compost:
- It’s important to throw in a few scoops of finished compost. Ideally, worm castings would be excellent, but even redwood compost would work too. The idea is to introduce finished compost as a starter, inoculating the pile with microbial activity to begin with.
- Ratio of browns to greens must at least be 3:1. One source claims 30:1 but I think that’s a bit too much browns in my humble opinion.
- A lockable lid ensures that you can roll the trash can on its side. I did this at least once a day for a few seconds.
- Drilling holes in the sides are essential to allow air inside, thus sufficiently aerating the compost.
- It’s very important to water the compost daily. I used a sprayer to spray compost tea onto the pile. This was like a double-whammy in causing an ‘explosion’ of microbial life in the pile.
- As much as possible, cut or shred materials into small pieces. This will accelerate the decomposing process.
- You’d think lawn cuttings would decompose quickly. Not really, and not fully within a 2 week time frame. Maybe it depends on the weather. If anything, use a small amount of lawn cuttings and go from there.
- Materials such as egg shells and orange and tangerine peels take a longer time to decompose.
- Materials such as banana peels, coffee grounds, kitchen scrapes cut into very small pieces or blended, and shredded newspapers seem to decompose and break down the fastest.
- I turned the pile once a day with a small shovel. The importance of a small trash can will make this chore easier. The big 32 or 40 gallon trash cans will be too hard to manage. We’re looking for a smaller amount to allow for a quick, finished compost.
Compost in 12 Days
In summary, what greatly accelerated the composting process? For starters, adding finished compost is important. I found the coffee grounds (available for FREE at many Starbucks coffee shops) and the banana peels to be great additions to the pile. They both decompose quickly, helping to add moisture to the mix.
Everything has to be shredded or cut into small pieces. And the daily watering and turning of the pile is essential to speed up the process.
I’ll try to do a better post in the future with better details on this composting process, and I’ll most likely update and amend to this post in the near future to better document this further. So stay tuned.
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