Compost: Speeding Up the Breakdown

Compost heaps work by generating intense heat and biological activity, breaking down all materials you include into a rich, organic substance that works wonderfully as a soil amendment. The ingredients for successful composting are pretty standard: water, air, and green and brown materials that create nitrogen and carbon. These materials include coffee grounds, tea leaves, eggshells, corn cobs, hedge trimmings, lawn clippings, pine needles, straw, weeds and other plant debris.

To speed up the composting process, it’s important to turn the pile often with a rake or shovel and add water whenever it gets dry. It also helps to add some garden soil every now and then, and an occasional sprinkling of lime will help to reduce acidity (which slows down or stops the bacterial composting action).

For even quicker composting, you can create a homemade “accelerant.” This will increase the amount of moisture, carbon and nitrogen in your pile (the organisms that decompose organic matter need carbon for energy and nitrogen to build cell structure).

To create your accelerant, combine the following in a 5-gallon bucket:

  • 1 gallon of warm water
  • ½ cup of household ammonia (nitrogen- rich)
  • 1 can of flat, warm beer (the yeast in the beer will encourage bacterial growth)
  • 1 can of warm, regular cola (the sugar in the cola provides necessary carbon)

Stir the mixture thoroughly and pour it slowly over your compost heap. Follow this up with a few shovels full of garden soil, then turn the pile to distribute the accelerant evenly.

Once your compost turns dark and crumbly, it will be ready to use in your garden!



Compost Piles

Compost piles are a familiar thing to most people. Compost Piles come with many benefits that will help all your gardening needs. The primary benefit of compost piles is that the soil produced from them is filled with nutrients and beneficial organisms that help your plants grow strong and healthy.

It is important where you chose to set up your compost pile, it’s ideal to have it in a spot that gets plentiful rainfall and has good drainage. In addition, you should compost in an area that gets half sunshine and half shade. Many people feel that a compost pile may not look appealing so be sure to camouflage it in by planting tall flowers around it in a way it is not an eye sore.

When making your compost pile, do not make it to small or too big, it should be about 5 feet high x 5 feet wide x 5 feet deep, at the max.

To get started, choose an area that does not have a concrete and/or blacktop base to start your compost pile on, bare ground is best.  Here is how you will want to organize your compost:

How to organize your Compost Pile

Layer one: consist of organic materials such as vegetable waste, sod, grass clippings, untreated sawdust.

Layer two: animal manure, fertilizer, or starters can be used to create this layer.

Layer three: normal top soil will work for this layer.

Once you have built your compost pile wait and let it set for about 5 weeks.  After 5 weeks, turn and water your compost. You can then add additional layers to it if you would like.

How much water should you apply, you ask?  Simply feel for dampness or squeeze a handful of it in your hand.  If one to two drops of water come out that means that there is enough water. If this doesn’t happen then you will need to water your compost pile some more.

Good luck!