Making compost is easy as all the hard work is carried out by nature. And if you’re living in a tropical climate, you’d be able to get usable compost in just a couple of weeks!
But.. what if your compost seems to be taking longer than expected?
Here you’ll find tips on how you can speed things up without tearing your hair out.
Tip 1: Have at least two compost bins
As you can see from this post, we got two compost bins for good reason: Once the first one is full, we would set it aside to compost completely while adding new wastes to the second bin.
Usually, by the time the second bin is full, the compost in the first bin would be ready for use. We’d then remove the compost and add new wastes to the first bin, while setting aside the second bin to compost.
Having at least two bins reduces the overall waiting time. It’s a bit like brushing your teeth in the morning while warming up your favorite toast in the oven.
Tip 2: Use the right compost mix
The key to making good compost is to use a balance of different types of materials.
Moist, sappy ‘greens‘ such as fruit and vegetable peels contain nitrogen and are quick to rot.
On the other hand, ‘browns‘ such as toilet rolls add structure to your compost. They create air spaces, improve air circulation in the compost pile, and provide microbes with a balanced diet of carbon-rich material.
This is why we recommend a 50/50 mix of ‘greens‘ and ‘browns‘. For example, for every bowlful of vegetable scraps that you add to your bin, add the same amount of shredded newspaper.
For more examples of ‘greens’ and ‘browns’, click here.
Newbie tip: If it’s your first time composting, we recommend adding more ‘browns’ than ‘greens’. This is because a dry compost pile is easier to manage than a wet one.
Tip 3: Allow air into your bin
The microbes that make the best compost need oxygen to live. Hence, it’s important to allow air into your bin for effective composting.
This can be done in a variety of ways:
- Mix in scrunched up paper, shredded cardboard egg boxes and/or toilet roll tubes to provide air pockets in your compost pile.
- Insert a stick or garden spade as far into the compost bin as possible and give it a good wiggle!
- Dig your compost over using a garden scoop. (Do this only once every few weeks.)
- Use hay as the topmost layer for your compost pile.
Tip 4: Keep it moist (not too dry or wet)
If you have the right balance of ‘greens’ and ‘browns’ in your compost pile, you should have the right amount of moisture.
Do keep your compost pile damp (not dry or dripping wet). A dry compost pile results in a slow and inactive composting process, whereas an overly wet one runs the risk of smells and pests.
Here’s a simple way to check for moisture:
- Take a sample of compost (not waste material) from your bin.
- Squeeze the sample in your hand.
- If liquid fills the cracks between your fingers, you have enough moisture.
- If liquid is pouring out of your hand, it is too wet.
- In this case, mix in more ‘browns‘.
- If there’s no liquid filling the cracks in your fingers, your compost is too dry.
- In this case, mix in more ‘greens‘ or sprinkle some water into your bin.
- You may also let rainwater into your bin. However, do ensure that your bin is propped off from the ground and has sufficient holes at the bottom to allow excess water to drain out. (An overly-wet compost runs the risk of smells and pests!)
Newbie tip: If it’s your first time composting, we recommend keeping your compost pile dry. Once you’ve gained confidence over time, you may add more ‘greens’ and/or water.
Tip 5: Keep it warm
As microbes in your compost pile thrive in warm temperature, we recommend sitting your bin in partial sun.
Be careful not to place your bin in direct sunlight, as extreme temperatures would kill the microbes.
You may also cover the compost pile with a layer of cardboard, newspaper, or hay to retain warmth in your pile.
Do bear in mind not to seal your bin with a lid, because this would deprive the microbes of oxygen.
Note: Your compost pile will heat up due to aerobic activity taking place. If you’re planning to use your compost on edible plants, the temperature in your pile should reach 70°C in order to eliminate any harmful bacteria in the mixture. You may purchase a compost thermometer for this purpose.
Alternatively, simply avoid adding any material that may contain harmful bacteria.
Tip 6: Add sappy materials
Green sappy materials that are quick to rot will add more nitrogen to your compost pile. They also help to activate the composting process.
Here are some examples of sappy ‘greens‘:
- Rotten vegetables and fruits
- Used tea bags
- Used coffee grounds
- Wilted plants such as flowers
- Grass cuttings
- Both human and animal urine is a great source of nitrogen and potassium (we kid you not!) It can be diluted and added to a compost pile. However, this only applies if you’re composting outdoors—so as to avoid odor wars with neighbors.
Tip 7: Compost a larger amount of material at the same time
The more material in your bin, the faster the composting process. Hence, a fully-filled bin produces compost quicker than a partially-filled one.
The same is true for a filled larger-sized bin than a smaller-sized one.
Tip 8: Chop up ‘greens’ and shred up ‘browns’ before adding
The smaller the materials, the faster the decomposition process.
Chop up ‘greens’ (into small two-inch size pieces) and shred up ‘browns’ before adding to your bin. This also allows you to add more material to your bin before it gets completely full!
Tip 9: Avoid adding hard carbon materials
Hard carbon materials such as sawdust and wood shavings take a long time to decompose. Add only a small amount if you would like to get finished compost more quickly.
Now, go and change your world of composting! 😉
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