This article is about how to make quick compost. There are a lot of ways how to make compost, from the slow, rotting heap behind the shed to a mountain of steaming plant matter being turned by huge machines. And in the middle of this composting scale is the hot processed compost, the perfect option for gardeners that want a lot of compost in a short amount of time and are willing to put in a bit of work. Because believe me when I say this is going to give your abs a nice burn every second day! But anyway, let’s get started, shall we?
The difference between cold process vs hot processed – which one result in quick compost?
So first let me explain the difference between hot and cold compost. For the cold process, you use about equal parts green and dry parts, mix it together, through it in a hole or on a heap and leave it there to sort itself out. It may take a few years for everything to break down, leaving you with a very small heap of compost. Because it takes so long, the plant material decrease significantly.
The hot process, on the other hand, is made up of three components: nitrogen, green, and woody or dry materials. You then layer your materials on a big heap, it heats up, then you have to turn it often to aerate the heap. It will be done within 18 days and, the size of your heap will be about the same size you start with.
Pros and cons
If you are still not convinced that this is the compost for you, let me list some pros:
- Its fungi and bacteria-rich
- It won’t smell like rotten stuff
- This is going to be a LOT of compost – the amount you start with is the amount you’ll end up, unlike cold composting
- It can be stored for years
- It will kill weed seeds and pathogens
- Making it will only cost you your own labor, no need to buy expensive equipment
- It will be ready in a short amount of time – what did I tell you? Quick compost!
- It’s a good workout
And the cons:
- It’s a good workout
- It’s a lot of compost – you can always sell it though
- You’ll need a lot of plant material all at once, to begin with
- The heap is going to be quite big
- You’ll have to invest some time in it
What you’ll need
Relax, you don’t need a crazy cousin in a lab for this, it’s right in your backyard! Nitrogen is going to be about 10% of your matter, about 8 bags of manure per square meter. If you don’t have manure, you can use 2 square meters of legume plants like lucern or vetch per square meter of compost. You can use any type of farm animal manure. As you collect it put it on a heap next to your planned compost plot
List of nitrogen sources: https://www.dummies.com/home-garden/green-living/nitrogen-rich-materials-for-your-compost-pile/
The green matter should be about 45% of the matter. And anything that is green will work, even if it has since dried. To ease the turning later on, break long pieces in smaller pieces, piling it next to your manure until you have enough. You can use green grass cuttings, leave prunings, damaged vegetables like spinach, and food scraps.
List of green material sources: http://www.compost-info-guide.com/greens.htm
The woody/dry component should also consist of 45% of the matter. Add more woody material if you would like to encourage fungi growth in your quick compost. You can use maize cobs, stalks, branches, cardboard, wood shavings, thatch grass, leaves, and dead or woody weeds. Also, make a pile next to your compost plot until you gathered sufficient material.
List of woody compost sources: https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/composting/ingredients/browns-greens-compost.htm
Time to start composting – the guide to quick compost
Gather your supplies. You’ll need a pitchfork, a wheelbarrow, and lots of water, a hosepipe will be best.
Your heap should be at least 1x1x1 meter, mark it out by placing your woody material on the ground, creating a 1×1 m square as the base. Start layering your materials, a layer dry material, then a layer of greens, then a bag of manure (if it’s not in bags just spread a thin layer) and repeat. Dry, green, manure. Dry, green, manure Until you reach a meter high. You can make this heap as big as you like, just make sure it is as wide as it is high. Dunk your materials in water or using the hose pipe, water thoroughly after every layer.
If you live in a colder climate, or in a very rainy area, cover your quick compost heap with a big tarp and put some rocks or old tires on the edges to keep it from blowing away. Now mark on your calendar 4 days from now, that’s when you must turn it the first time.
It’s day four. Your quick compost heap should be steaming and if you insert your hand, nice and hot. Now it’s time to turn. Using a pitchfork, turn your heap so that the outside is now on the inside and your inside is now on the outside. That allows that all the matter breaks down evenly and that the heap is properly aerated. Try making your heap as square as possible, that will help to keep it sturdy, especially if you have a very big heap. Cover with the tarp again and leave it now for 2 days.
After the two days is over, turn, cover, and repeat every two days for another 12 days. Add water if it’s really dry, a good rule of thumb is to take a hand full of compost and squeeze it as hard as you can. If the water content is right, a single drop should drip out. If not, add some more water.
Your compost should be ready now! It should be fine, dark brown soil, everything is fully broken down. Use it in your vegetable garden or for fruit trees. It may be too strong for seedlings, but you can always use it to create a potting mix that is safe for little plants.
You can also use it when growing microgreens in your kitchen!
Your compost is probably too hot, move all the hot insides to the edges and make sure to aerate the whole heap with your pitchfork. It should disappear when the temperature is a bit lower.
You guessed it, your heap is too cold. Heat it up by placing a tarp over your compost.
When there’s too much water your heap will probably be a bit smelly and not warm enough. Add a bit of dry materials like leaves, straw, newspaper, or cardboard. Make sure to cover it with a tarp if it is too rainy.