Composting is alchemy at its best.
You take scraps that you would otherwise throw away, and turn it into gardening gold that nourishes your garden and grows amazing vegetables and flours.
And like all good things, it comes to those who wait, right?
Compost takes time to break down and turn into delicious plant food.
Except there is a way to speed up the process.
It takes a little work (it’s a payoff between work or time), but the result is compost in only a few weeks.
If you want free garden goodness in a hurry, read on and find out how to do it.
How to Make Fast Compost
You need to start with a compost bin. I use this DIY small compost bin and it’s perfect for making fast compost and it’s either free or very cheap, which is even better. Gardening does not have to cost a fortune.
Composting is essentially the decomposition of plants. Friendly bacteria break down the plant structure. To speed the process up, we’re going to help these friendly bacteria do their job by starting the breaking down process for them.
To break down food scraps, chop them finely while you’re preparing your meals or throw them in the food processor to make a fine food-scrap blend.
The smell of this concoction is surprisingly good: onion-y, garlic-y, apple-y, capsicum-y good. Passionfruit and pineapple season was a sweetly aromatic time for the compost bin.
Once your food scraps are processed, add them to your compost bin, along with some finely cut dry matter – I compost our old shredded tax returns and bank statements. It makes composting particularly satisfying.
For good compost, you need to keep the ratio between the wet ‘nitrogen’ ingredients and the dry ‘carbon’ ingredients right. But this isn’t rocket science.
If your compost is moist, but not wet, if it smells sweet and fresh like the damp earth of the rainforest floor, mixed with the natural smell of the kitchen scraps (banana peels are particularly distinct) then you’ve got the ratio spot on.
If your compost stinks, it’s too wet. Add dry matter and give it a stir to correct it. Paper, dry leaves – stuff like that.
If your compost is too dry, you’ll be able to feel it. And nothing will be breaking down. Add more kitchen scraps, green lawn clippings, manure or water.
When your compost is like baby bear’s porridge – just right – it will start to heat up and break down. Heat is the other important factor with compost – microorganisms like warm moist environments.
Large compost piles generate their own internal heat from the decomposition process. For small bins, you can help the process along by keeping the bin in the sun and keeping the mixture moist.
The final step is to aerate your compost regularly. Either give it a good stir when you add your kitchen scraps – a long stick works just fine – or push your bin over and kick it up the yard and back to give it a good roll and tumble. This is one chore the kids love doing!
Add This Key Ingredient For Even Faster Compost
Do you make saurkraut? Or eat yoghurt?
Fermented foods – those superfoods that are full of friendly bacteria – have gone through the very first step of composting. The good bacteria are pre-digesting those foods for us. It kind of makes it sound gross when I say it like that, but when my fermentation teacher told us, it made complete sense.
So don’t waste the brine or the sour whey of your fermented foods – they are full of friendly bacteria which can help inoculate your compost and break it down more quickly.
This isn’t essential of course, there are plenty of microorganisms around, ready and willing to compost your scraps, but more hands make light work and adding a few extra will speed up the composting process.
You can buy commercial compost accelerators like this one if you prefer, but a little sour whey from good quality or homemade cultured yoghurt or the juice from proper saurkraut (not the supermarket stuff), is a free alternative.
A little bit goes a long way (whey?) so just sprinkle it in to give your compost a boost. You need a village of friendly bacteria, not a city full crime gangs making trouble in your compost bin. If you do add too much, and your compost becomes too wet, add some more dry ingredients.
Composting is easy. All you need is time and mother nature does the rest. But if you want to speed up the process and get through all your kitchen scraps quickly, then helping your compost along with these tips will mean you have delicious compost for your garden in weeks.