You know about compost, so in what way can compost be supercharged? We’re talking about making it fast. As in really, really fast. Ordinarily, you’re looking at at least three months for regular compost, but there are ways to boost the composting process. So far so good, but just how fast can you make compost? Well, we discovered sources that say it can be done in two weeks or even less!
Have I tried this? I have not! Would I want to? Hmmmm. I’ll admit to thinking about it. Maybe you’d like to consider it too, so let’s unravel this method of composting to see if it’s something we want to put into practice ourselves!
Here’s the First Recipe.
First up, you’re going to need enough finely chopped organic matter to start your compost. Grass clippings will do. If you don’t generate enough, ask your neighbours if you can collect theirs. Now you need a compost bin. Don’t have one? There are tons of ways to go about making one – check out our blog post on compost bin making for tips if you need them!
Start off with a 10cm layer of grass clippings or other finely cut organic material. Now use some of your existing garden compost to make the next layer. It should already have a lively population of microorganisms to get the composting process started, so although it sounds odd, using compost to make compost makes sense.
Just cover the first layer with compost, and then add ready-composted manure. Again, this makes sense because the microorganisms that will break down your compost need nitrogen, and manure will contain enough of that to keep them well fed while they get to work on the fresher material. As far as I can see, you only need to sprinkle this lightly over your first two layers. Now, it’s time for the next grass layer.
Next, you need to add moisture. You don’t want to use chlorinated water, so either filter enough to make a bucket full or so, or use rain water since the chlorine in municipal water would affect microorganisms negatively. Mix some diluted molasses into the water for sugar content that will also help to get your microorganisms feeling well fed and ready to tackle anything. How much molasses mixture? Our first source doesn’t say, our second gives a hint. We may have to play around a bit to get this right.
Once you’ve thoroughly wet the top layer of grass with your liquid concoction, add another sprinkling of manure. Next up is another layer of uncomposted organics: a thin layer of kitchen scraps or more grass clippings followed by another thin layer of compost. Repeat the layering and moistening process until your compost bin is full.
Two weeks in a well-ventilated compost bin, and you should have usable compost.Unbelievable?
Another Take on Fast Composting
At first glance, this method of composting had me shaking my head in disbelief. So I did a little more digging and came up with a guy who says he can make compost in just 10 days! He uses dried leaves, freshly mown grass, and that molasses mixture again.
I was amused to see that he gets the leaves (plus some hand-shredded chunks of cardboard down to a finely chopped texture by spreading them on his lawn before mowing. Cute idea! The cardboard wasn’t finely shredded after the first run, so he mowed it a couple of times to get the desired result. Disclaimer: I have NO idea whether this is OK for your lawnmower!
The molasses mix looked like about one soup spoon to 10 litres of water. Good place to start, anyway. To get bacteria into the heap, he builds the heap on bare soil instead of placing it in a bin. Although his leaves, grass, and cardboard are mixed, he still builds the heap in layers, wetting each one with the molasses mix. The heap itself isn’t that big – maybe a metre in diameter and 50 cm high.
So how to get heat buildup into this? He covers the heap with black plastic. Yes! It’s ordinarily a composting no-no, but he gets past the aeration problem by stirring his compost daily or every second day plus a sprinkle of water depending on whether the inside of the heap is heating well.
After 10 days, one can still see some intact grass strands, but most of the material is pretty well-composted. Personally, I wouldn’t want to dig something like that in, because it isn’t fully broken down, but our source simply uses it as a mulch, and that could work pretty well too. After all, any nutrients would tend to leach down into the soil, and after a while, it should be perfectly safe to dig it in.
Basic Principles of Fast Composting
I’ve built biodynamic compost heaps before. They were on a much larger scale, and they did take a bit longer than the time these sources claim, but the process is similar, and there are some good general principles to try if you want to hasten compost-making in your garden.
- Layer it up and moisten as you go. Molasses is an add-on for me, but it does make sense.
- Garden soil or compost that’s ready to use adds inoculum to the heap. I never thought of using compost. I just used soil, but if you have some compost to spare, I guess it could be a faster method.
- Adding manure is something I’ve been meaning to do, primarily because it’s more nutrient-rich than plant-based materials. But since the composting process eats nitrogen at first, making lots of it available to the microorganisms makes a lot of sense.
- Ventilation is important. Our first source used a well-ventilated mesh bin. Our second made a smaller heap, one that would ordinarily compost slowly, covered it with black plastic, but stirred his compost every day or two to get it aerated.
The next step for me is to give this a try for myself. I think I’ll go with a hybrid approach, adding the extras like manure and then using the methods our second source suggests. It’s going to be pretty labour intensive because of all that stirring, but it shouldn’t take more than a few minutes a day. Once the inside of the heap starts to cool, the material should be pretty well composted and ready to use.
Have you tried fast composting? What’s your method? GIve us a heads up and let’s keep the conversation going!