How long does it take to make compost?
How long it takes to create compost relies on many varying factors including what materials you are adding, what grade of compost are you trying to achieve? What method you are using, how much moisture is present, what temperature you are composting at, how often you turn your compost and the size of the matter you wish to compost.
The fundamental factors that dictate the rate your compost is produced is the raw materials you add to the compost. Firstly it is essential that your compost materials are in the correct quantities of nitrogen and carbon. Without going too in depth nitrogen are green materials such as grass clippings, plant material and kitchen waste.
Carbon based materials are things like wood chip, sawdust, paper, cardboard and twigs. The correct mix of these elements will help to feed microorganisms within your compost while creating a course bulky structure. Too much carbon within a compost bin usually results in woody light coloured compost low in nutrients. A compost bin high in nitrogen is often fowl smelling and sludgy with low oxygen. To produce compost at the fastest possible rate it is important these two elements are in the correct proportions and mixed well.
The size of the particles within your compost will also dictate how efficient the decomposition is and hence the speed at which in breaks down. A shredder or chipper or even a heavy duty lawn mower is a great way to process your composting materials so they are already in finer particles so water, oxygen and microorganisms can easily coat every particles surface which will accelerate the time to reach perfect compost.
Adding compost activators and accelerators can also dramatically increase the speed of your compost makings. Many contain natural fermented ingredients including plants high in beneficial compounds such as Comfrey and common nettles. The addition of these sorts of ingredients gives your compost pile everything it needs to maximise decomposition.
The temperature of your compost bin or heap also makes a huge difference to the speed of production. A well constructed pile or organised compost bin should warm up by itself by microorganisms being provided with optimum conditions to break down matter and produce heat. By placing your composter in a place where it is exposed to sunshine will allow the compost bin to get to a good temperature for microorganisms to do the job quicker.
Winter is a slow time of year for composting with much of the composting happening in warmer months. Try to turn your compost bin every 2 weeks in summer to aerate and take advantage of the warm conditions. In winter allow the compost to sit and gather materials as well as the glut of autumn leaves ready to turn next spring.
The moisture content of your compost bin is something that is regularly overlooked. You have to remember that quick compost making requires a healthy environment for the fungi, bacteria, insects and invertebrates. This includes treating your compost bin as any living organism providing the correct amount of water is essential for good efficient composting. On the other hand too much water can have the opposite effect swamping the integral parts reducing the temperature and oxygen content.
Aerating your compost is vital to add fresh oxygen to the organic materials within the more time you spend turning your compost will allow the organisms to work harder to break down your composting materials. Turning your compost not only adds oxygen it also helps mix the elements which in turn accelerates the decomposition needed for faster compost. Tumblers are a type of compost bin which allow you to turn the contents with minimal effort, no bending or digging. The tumblers draw in extra oxygen to the compost bin and mix the matter very effectively.
Many people imagine making the perfect compost, evenly graded and sieved like the ones bought at garden centres. It is completely possible to achieve this but this can take longer and sieving is done by many large compost suppliers to give the fine texture found in store bought compost. Less professional bulky larger textured compost still has all the benefits of finely graded compost in terms of fertiliser but perhaps is not beneficial for pots or seed sowing. Producing lower grade compost will obviously take less time to create but if you want perfectly evenly graded store compost putting into practice all of the elements set out in this article will be essential in producing quick compost.
Some of the quickest composting results can be achieved in a few months but this will usually mean source material is shredded or finely graded. The correct ratios and ingredients in the correct quantities will be added to the compost bin. An optimum temperate range will be present during the composting process. The compost heap will be moist enough and contain enough oxygen to feed the microorganisms. Turning your compost regularly or using compost tumblers will help.
Not managing to element all of these perfect scenarios will mean compost is produced slower but as a good guide a year is adequate as long as the compost is turned at least twice and particles are not too bulky with minimum requirements for moisture and carbon to nitrogen ratios.
Enjoy making your own fresh organic compost.