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How to Compost in Large Quantities

By Regan Hennessy ; Updated September 21, 2017
Keep your compost windrow about as damp as a wrung-out sponge.

Composting in large quantities requires the same ingredients and carbon-to-nitrogen levels as small-scale composting; the only difference is the amount of waste that you’ll be using. Grace Gershuny, co-author of “The Rodale Book of Composting,” states that you should take extra care to select a well-draining, secluded compost site to ensure that you don’t cause problems, such as drainage issues, with your large-scale compost operation. One of the simplest ways to compost large amounts of organic waste is called "windrow composting." Used by many farmers and ranchers to convert animal waste and old feed into nutrient-dense compost, windrow composting consists of a long, narrow, heaped row of organic waste.

Chop and shred your organic waste into small pieces that measure no more than about 3 inches in diameter to decrease composting time. Use a trowel or garden shears to cut food wastes; opt for a shovel if you need to chop up animal manure. Drive over leaf waste with a push mower or feed it through a leaf shredder, if one is available.

Mix equal amounts of carbon-high organic waste (dry materials, such as dead leaves, sawdust, straw and newspaper) and nitrogen-high organic waste (wet materials, such as fresh-cut grass, food scraps and animal manure). Spread a 6-inch layer of the mixed waste across your well-draining compost site in a 4-foot–by–8-foot swath.

Spray the layer of organic waste with your garden hose to dampen it; ideally, it should be about as moist as a wrung-out sponge, according to the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension. Top the base layer with a second 6-inch layer of organic waste; water the second layer of waste. Repeat the layering and dampening process until your compost windrow measures 4 feet tall.

Add extra compost waste to the end of your windrow as it becomes available. Mix equal amounts of carbon and nitrogen materials and spread the mixed materials out across the ground at one end of the windrow to extend the overall length of the windrow. Keep the entire windrow damp; check the moisture level once weekly by squeezing a handful of the waste to ensure that you can wring out only one to two drops of moisture.

 

Things You Will Need

  • Carbon-rich organic waste
  • Nitrogen-rich organic waste
  • Trowel/garden shears
  • Shovel
  • Push mower/leaf shredder
  • Garden hose

Tips

  • Your windrow can be as long as necessary, but avoid allowing it to get any wider than 4 to 5 feet to allow fresh oxygen to penetrate the heap naturally without the need for manual aeration.
  • Avoid using this composting method if you have close neighbors, since the sheer amount of organic waste may cause odors, especially if you're composting animal waste.
  • Scoop finished compost from your windrow as you need it; remove mature compost from the end of the windrow that has aged the longest. Wait at least six months before removing any compost to ensure that the compost is mature.

Warning

  • Never compost manure from meat-eating animals, such as pets and pigs, since it could contain harmful pathogens that may infect humans.

About the Author

 

Regan Hennessy has been writing professionally for 11 years. A copywriter and certified teacher, Hennessy specializes in the areas of parenting, health, education, agriculture and personal finance. She has produced content for various websites and graduated from Lycoming College with a Bachelor of Arts in English.