Compost In 30 Days
I have been composting ever since I can remember.
Growing up in the country, my mom had us save every vegetable scrap from the kitchen to be added to the heap behind the gardening shed.
About once a year, we would empty the compost onto our garden, and start the process over again. Sounds awesome and easy, right?
It is! If you are very limited on time, throwing all your compostable waste in a pile and letting it ferment is a great way to go. This is what is referred to as “cold composting”. The compost pile never gets very hot, and will very slowly break down the waste.
The only drawback of this method is that it take a LONG time to produce any compost that can be used in a garden setting.
I prefer to use lots and lots of compost in my permaculture gardens, and this composting style just doesn’t produce quickly enough for me.
So, I use a “hot” composting method.
Hot composting takes a bit more involvement, but the results are completely worth it!
Using the hot composting method, I can easily make 40-50 gallons of compost every 30 days!
Now, that is my kind of turn around time. 🙂
First, let’s talk about what you should put into your compost pile.
There are two categories of compostable waste:
“Green” materials are high in nitrogen. * this doesn’t mean they are always the color green though!
- vegetable and fruit scraps
- coffee grounds and tea bags
- manure (make sure you only add manure from non-carnivorous animals. The dog’s poop is not a good addition to the compost pile!)
- weeds (only add weeds that haven’t gone to seed yet, just in case your compost doesn’t get quite hot enough to kill the seeds!)
- fresh grass clippings
“Brown” materials are high in carbon.
- dried leaves (shredded are best)
- dried grass clippings
I prefer to give most of my vegetable and fruit scraps to the chickens (and soon the pigs) and then use their manure in my compost piles, but you can definitely add it directly to the pile if you don’t have animals. (Or use a worm bin to break down the scraps like my friend Amy does!!)
You can get really technical about exact ratios of carbon to nitrogen in compost piles, but I prefer to keep it simple, and go by instinct.
I have found that simply adding a bit more “brown” material than “green” material keeps my compost nice and happy.
For example, if I dump my gallon container of kitchen scraps on the compost pile (green), then I add a “heaping” gallon of dried leaves (brown) to balance it out. Somewhere around a 1.5:1 ratio.
Go with your gut. If your compost is getting slimy and stinky, you need to add more brown material. If you are doing all the right steps, but it is taking way longer to decompose, you probably need to add more green material.
Either way, your compost pile will eventually break down and become awesome compost. We are just trying to get the magic formula for quick and hot composting!
So, how does all this waste become rich black crumbly compost in 30 days?
There are 4 main components:
- Having a good balance of green and brown material. (see above)
- Keeping the compost the correct size. No smaller than 3 feet across, and 3 feet tall, or your compost won’t be able to get hot enough. You can use a bin or wire ring to keep the compost in place, or you can simply make a pile on the ground. I do a combination of both, but eventually I will have multiple wooden compost bins. Just don’t make the pile(s) TOO big, or it will be hard to turn.
- Keeping the compost from drying completely out. The compost should be damp, but not soggy or dripping.
- Turning the compost. To get finished compost in 30 days, you need to turn the pile every 2-3 days.
It may sound a bit complicated at first, but it’s a breeze once you actually start composting!
Collect your compostable waste. I can start a nice size compost pile after I clean out the chicken pen each month. I add the straw and chicken manure, a few gallon buckets of kitchen scraps that the chickens won’t eat, and chopped leaves.
Mix your compost together, and add enough water to create a damp consistency. Create a pile that is at least 3 feet across and 3 feet tall. Walk away. 🙂
Here is a pile that is a few days old.
Now all you need to do is turn the pile every 2-3 days, and keep an eye on the dampness for the next month.
If the pile is getting a bit dry, you can add some water, or if you have a week or two of rain, you can cover with a tarp. I usually don’t have to add water to mine unless we have a really long dry spell.
To turn, use a pitchfork to scoop from the middle of the compost and deposit it on the outside of the pile, then scoop some compost from the outside and move it to the inside.
Basically, you are “stirring” the pile. There is no special technique required. My favorite way is to literally TURN the pile. I use the pitchfork to scoop off the top of the compost pile, and start a new pile right next to it. I keep piling it up until the old pile is gone. By then, things are completely mixed up, and I have a nice, pretty pile of compost right next to where the original pile stood. Oh, and I have gotten a quick 5 minute work out!
In about a month, your compost should have broken down into a dark crumbly dirt-like consistency.
There may be a few chunks left that haven’t broken down quite all the way. Depending on how you are using the compost, you can either leave them in, or sift them out.
So, with a few scraps, some leaves, and a pitchfork, you can create lovely compost in 30 days!
*If you don’t think you have the 5 min 3 times a week to turn the compost pile, try even giving it a turn every week or two. It will still break down faster than if you never turned at all!