Composting is a great way to reduce your waste, maintain a healthy soil environment, and get free fertilizer for your garden. But it can take weeks or even months for your compost to become ready to use. Luckily, we know how to speed up composting so you can start using your finished compost in your garden sooner!
Whether you’re composting indoors or outside, there are quick composting methods and fast composting machines and bins that can help you speed up the composting process. Read on to learn these methods, or feel free to jump to the section that you’ll find most helpful.
- 15 easy tips & tricks to speed up compost
- How to compost faster: 4 methods to accelerate composting
- Top 4 FAQs on fast composting techniques
- What is the fastest way to make compost at home?
So let’s first dive into our top tips to help accelerate composting, and then we’ll discuss which methods to use to get results quickly.
15 easy tips & tricks to speed up compost
Composting takes time and patience to do correctly, however if time is a priority you might want to know how to make pre-compost fast at home. Wondering what will make pre-compost break down faster? Here are seven methods that will help you understand how to make pre-compost break down faster.
#1. Turn your pile often
Air circulation is important, so once your large pre-compost heap is moist, you will need to turn it every few days to aerate it. Turning and mixing is important to create air pockets, avoid excess moisture, and distribute heat among the pile.
Pro Tip: If your living space is confined, hot composting or having a large compost pile may not be the best option for you. We do have some quick composting tips for apartment dwellers as well, since having a hot compost piles might not be possible.
#2. Cut up your waste
Cutting or shredding your waste is a simple way to accelerate decomposition. Smaller materials break down faster than larger pieces because they will provide the bacteria more surface area to work on. However, you don’t want to grind all your food waste into a paste as this would make it difficult for air to flow through and wouldn’t result in the fine, earthy pre-compost you’re looking for.
Pro tip: If you don’t have a pre-compost shredder to shred your yard waste, use a lawn mower to chop up some of the material.
#3. Make sure you add enough carbon
Having the right carbon to nitrogen (C:N) ratio is essential for composting faster. Carbon rich materials like leaf clippings, twigs, sawdust, and paper, are considered brown materials. Adding more brown material helps add bulk and also allows air to better get into your pile. It’s important to note that brown materials aren't always brown and, green materials aren’t always green. Brown material is typically dry and woody with no moisture content, whereas the green material is wet with high moisture content.
Pro Tip: Having a good mix of green and brown material in your pre-compost ensures that it generates the right amount of heat necessary to break down organic materials in your pre-compost. A 4:1 ratio of brown to green materials is generally considered a good guideline.
#4. Add high nitrogen material
You should also add high nitrogen material to your pile to create a fast composting process. Nitrogen-rich pre-compost materials like grass clippings, plant cuttings, and fruit and vegetable scraps are considered green materials. Grass clippings are great green materials to add to your pre-compost because they provide moisture and nutrients. Fruit and vegetable scraps, such as cores and peels, are also good sources of moisture and nutrients.
Pro tip: Be sure to add high-nitrogen material to your compost pile on a regular basis, but in small, controlled amounts. While nitrogen is essential for decomposition, too much of it can actually slow down the composting process.
For more information, check out guide on green and brown materials, and learn how to create a balanced compost.
#5. Use insulation to heat it up
If you're having problems getting your compost pile to heat up, consider using insulation like hay or straw. This will help to keep the heat in, allowing the composting process to speed up.
Layer the insulation material on top of the pre-compost heap, making sure that it is evenly distributed. You can increase the thickness of the insulation as the weather gets colder or if you want the pile to be at a higher temperature.
#6. Add some compost activators
While composting can be slow to start, you can get around that issue by adding compost activators to you pile. Compost activators speed up the composting process by quickly adding nitrogen to the compost pile. Also known as accelerators, these boosting agents are easy to find at most hardware stores or gardening centers, and are relatively cheap. Chicken or horse manure is also a great accelerator because it contains high levels of nitrogen.
Pro tip: Did you know used coffee grounds are an excellent addition to your compost pile? They are rich in nitrogen and help speed up the composting.
#7. Include old compost
As composting relies on beneficial microbes, making sure they’re plentiful is a great way to speed up the process. When you’re starting a new compost pile, the easiest way to introduce those microorganisms is by adding some already finished compost to the mix.
Pro tip: If this is your first compost pile and you don’t have any old pre-compost to work with, adding compost accelerators will still be an effective way to kick-start the process.
#8. Compost outside in the summer
As heat plays such a huge role in the composting process, doing whatever you can to increase and maintain the heat in your pre-compost heap will make it finish quicker. If at all possible, you should always compost outdoors in the summer, and place the pile somewhere that gets plenty of sun. This will easily increase the temperature of your compost.
Pro tip: One of the fastest ways to compost outdoors in summer is by using the Berkeley method. Learn more about it here.
#9. Compost indoors in the winter
While composting outdoors in the summer is ideal, you’ll want to bring the compost indoors during the winter if at all possible. By keeping the pre-compost away from any cold spaces, it will be able to more easily retain its heat. Having a pre-compost heap outside during a cold winter will slow the process down to a crawl. If you’re worried about the smell pre-compost might leak into your home, we can help! Check out our article on keeping pre-compost from smelling so you can get fast pre-compost without any unpleasant odors.
Pro tip: Whether you are composting indoors or outdoors, adding a hot water bottle will kick-start your compost pile and give it some extra warmth during winter.
#10. Try to keep an ideal volume
Getting the right volume can also make a difference in how fast organic matter breaks down. If a compost pile is too dense, oxygen won’t be able to flow very well, which means microbes won’t be as efficient with breaking down waste. On the other hand, your compost pile not being dense enough means it will over-aerate, resulting in loose and dry pre-compost.
#11. Have a larger pile when possible
The actual size of your pre-compost heap will affect how hot it gets, and how quickly the temperature rises. The larger your pile is, the hotter it can get. So, if possible, it’s best to have just one pre-compost heap (as long as speed is your priority).
Pro tip: Your pre-compost heap will still be able to heat up even if it’s on the smaller side, so if you have to have an indoor compost bin, it won’t be a huge problem for you. Focus instead on the other tips that you can use.
#12. Have branches as your bottom layer
Adding a layer of branches to the bottom of your bin is great for helping the pile remain aerated. Because there will be gaps among the branches, air will actually be able to come into the pre-compost from the bottom of the pile, which it normally wouldn’t be able to do.
#13. Create air pockets in your compost
This is another tip for helping keep your compost pile aerated. Oxygen flow is super important for the microbes that are breaking down your food and yard waste, so creating some small air pockets within the pile can help speed up the process. Semi-decomposed wood chips are an easy way to increase the aeration of your pre-compost.
#14. Get the right moisture level
The right amount of moisture is also essential for aeration, as oxygen can travel through the water. So, you never want a completely dry compost pile, as that will take ages to break down. However, you also don’t want it to be too wet or you’ll get sloppy, clumpy pre-compost that won’t be a good addition to your gardens. Try to aim for the moisture of a wrung-out sponge for your compost pile.
Pro tip: While you can increase the moisture in your pre-compost by adding wet food and nitrogen rich materials, it might be easiest to just add some water to your pile.
#15. Focus on materials that are easy to digest
Not all organic materials compost as easily as others. As you’re relying on microbes to break down the waste, focusing on adding materials that are easier to digest will result in a faster process. For example, waste like grass clippings and shredded paper compost faster than wood because wood is high in lignin.
Pro tip: Don't add meat, dairy, or oils to your pile. These materials will attract pests and can develop an even more potent odor. Learn about what to compost and what not to here.
How to compost faster: 4 methods to accelerate composting
Whether you choose to compost indoors or outdoors, there are methods available to help you create nutrient rich pre-compost of the highest quality. Here are the top 4 methods that will help accelerate the process.
1. Automatic kitchen composting with Lomi
If you want to speed up your composting process, composting with Lomi is a great option. This quick composting machine has a capacity of 3 liters and is perfect for families. Lomi can compost not only your kitchen scraps but also Lomi Approved bioplastics and other biodegradable materials. Lomi can operate in 3 different modes and can compost your organic waste in as less as 4 hours. If you want to create more microbially rich dirt to add to your garden soil, Lomi’s Grow mode can do that in under 24 hours!
All you have to do is place your kitchen scraps into Lomi and push a button. With Lomi, the entire process of turning kitchen waste into nutrient-rich dirt takes less than a day!
This is perfect for: People who don’t have space to compost outdoors, or don’t have the time and energy for traditional composting. It’s also ideal for anyone who could use a steady supply of natural fertilizer.
2. Worm composting
While this may not sound entirely pleasing to everyone, composting is made much faster when you have worms do the work for you. This is especially true if you’re composting inside and can’t use tips that rely on outdoor space. By utilizing worms in your bin, you can get pre-compost in as little as 3 months. And don’t worry, when worm composting indoors, they’ll be fully contained in their bin!
This is perfect for: People who want to compost indoors and aren’t squeamish around worms.
3. The Bokashi method
The Bokashi method is another quick and simple way to compost. It involves purchasing a Bokashi bin along with some Bokashi bran. All you need to do is mix your food waste with some of the provided bran in the bin, squishing it in there to remove as much air as possible, and then wait a couple of weeks.
The finished product will be ready after about 2 weeks, but in that state will be too acidic to add to your soil. However, you can use it as a soil amendment if you bury the finished product for another 2 weeks.
This is perfect for: People who want to compost to eliminate food waste, but don’t necessarily want the finished compost for feeding their plants.
4. Hot composting using the Berkely method
Hot composting also known as the Berkely method is a great way to speed up the decomposition process. This method involves creating a large pile of green and brown material (i.e. moist, recently growing elements mixed with dry, woody materials) and then adding water until the pile is moist. Using this method, you can compost in just a few weeks!
The key to hot composting is to maintain a temperature of 130-160 degrees Fahrenheit, since the heat generated by the pile helps the natural process of decomposition occur faster. If the temperature falls below this range, the process will slow down. Use a compost thermometer to monitor the temperature of your compost pile.
Of all the quick composting techniques, this one requires the most space. In larger piles, the pre-compost heats up faster and can maintain more heat to compost more quickly. This method is best performed outdoors because requires a lot of space and can generate some unpleasant odors.
This is perfect for: People that have access to a backyard and are willing to put in some time and effort into making pre-compost.
These are just some of the many options available for speeding up composting. No matter what you choose, remember that the most important thing is to get started!
Top FAQs on fast composting techniques
Whether you are wondering what to add to compost to speed it up or how to accelerate compost naturally, we’ve compiled a quick reference list for you below.
1. How long does compost take to decompose?
Generally, it will take between three weeks and a year for organic matter to reach the optimal temperature and to decompose into finished compost. The speed at which pre-compost breaks down depends on a variety of factors, including the size and type of material you are composting and the climate.
To give you a general idea of how long compost takes to break down, we have summarized the timeframes in the table below, based on the method you choose.
Electric compost machine (Lomi)
4 to 20 hours
Worm bin composting
1 to 3 months
3 to 12+ months
To learn more about how long composting takes and various the factors that affect the process, check out this blog on how long compost takes.
2. What can I add to compost to speed it up?
You can add several things to compost to speed up the process, including worms, manure, grass clippings, and coffee grounds. You can also mix in a compost accelerator to speed up the process even further. Compost accelerators usually contain bacteria or enzymes that help speed up decomposition.
3. Does urine speed up compost?
The answer is YES! Although it might come as a surprise to many, it’s a well known fact among the gardening community that urine can speed up the composting process! The uric acid present in urine in rich in nitrogen acts as a compost activator.
Don’t believe us? Check out this article published on the Permaculture Reseach Institute’s website.
4. How to speed up composting in winter?
You can speed up compost in winter by adding a layer of insulation to your compost bin or pile. Insulated bins will keep the pre-compost warm and speed up the decomposition process. Likewise, you can also add a heat source to your quick composting bin, such as a hot water bottle or an electric heater.
Another tip on how to speed up composting in winter is to cover your compost bin with a tarp. This will help keep the pile warm and moist, which will speed up the decomposition process.
Finally, you can also try using an indoor composting system like Lomi, which is the fastest way up the decomposition process.
What is the fastest way to make compost at home?
The absolute fastest way to compost is with an electric composter such as Lomi. With Lomi, you can break down organic waste in as little as 3 hours. After only 16-20 hours, you'll receive nutrient-rich dirt that you can immediately add to soil to improve the health and quality of your plants.
Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the best way to speed up composting will vary depending on your specific situation. The space you have available, the time you have to spare, and your budget will all factor into the best decision for you. However, Lomi is a great option for many because of its small size and ease of use.
No matter what method you choose, remember that the key to speeding up composting is to keep the compost piles warm and moist, turn them often, and maintain the right carbon to nitrogen ratio. This will help speed up the decomposition process so you can enjoy your pre-compost sooner!
So, now that you know how to speed up composting, what are you waiting for? Get your Lomi today and start composting and see the benefits for yourself! You'll be helping the environment and reducing your waste production – it's a win-win situation.
Written by: Rebecca Neubauer