How to Make Fast Compost

Overview

Compost naysayers may claim that you can't produce quality compost in less than six months, but this is not accurate. With a bit of dedication and some good, old-fashioned hard work, you can convert organic waste into a nutrient-rich soil amendment in as little as two or three weeks, according to Robert Raabe, a professor of plant pathology at the University of California Berkeley. One of the keys to making fast compost lies in your ability to select and properly prepare your composting ingredients.

Step 1

Collect an equal amount of high-nitrogen and high-carbon organic waste for your compost pile. Look for a range of different nitrogen-rich materials, such as cow manure, fresh grass clippings, discarded flowers, fruit waste and vegetable peels, to provide the composting bacteria with adequate protein for reproduction and growth. Gather a variety of carbon-rich organic waste, such as dead leaves, old hay, straw, sawdust and newspaper, to give the decomposing bacteria adequate energy.

Step 2

Shred your organic waste into small pieces that measure no larger than 1 ½ inches in diameter. Chop larger pieces of vegetation with a trowel or shovel. Focus extra attention on chopping dense or woody materials, such as sticks and wood chips, since they typically take longer to break down during composting.

Step 3

Sprinkle a 2 to 3-inch layer of carbon-rich organic waste across your composting area, making sure that this base layer measures minimally 3-by-3 feet to promote the high temperatures that accompany rapid composting. Spread a 2-to-3 inch layer of nitrogen-rich organic materials across the base layer and dampen the entire structure with your garden hose until it is about as wet as a wrung-out sponge. Alternate carbon and nitrogen-rich layers until your compost pile is at least 3 feet tall.

Step 4

Turn and mix the composting materials once daily for two to three weeks. Use a manure fork to shift the waste in the center of your compost heap to the outside edges and move the material along the edges to the center of the compost pile. Squeeze a handful of compost waste to check the moisture level daily; ideally, you should be able to squeeze out only one to two drops of moisture, according to the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension.

Things You'll Need

  • High-nitrogen organic waste
  • High-carbon organic waste
  • Trowel
  • Garden hose
  • Manure fork

References

  • University of California: The Rapid Composting Method (pdf)
  • "The Complete Compost Gardening Guide"; Barbara Pleasant & Deborah Martin; 2008
  • Penn State University: How to Make Compost
  • University of Illinois Cooperative Extension: The Science of Composting
Keywords: fast compost, quick compost, composting fast

About this Author

Regan Hennessy has been writing professionally for 11 years. A freelance copywriter and certified teacher, Hennessy specializes in the areas of parenting, health, education, agriculture and personal finance. During her time with Demand Studios, Hennessy has produced content for Ehow, Answerbag and Travels. Hennessy graduated from Lycoming College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English.