How to Make Compost Faster (and Know When It’s Ready!) [Quick Start to Composting Part 3]


One of your favorite things about
composting it’s gonna be harvesting the gardener’s gold and adding it to your
soil. Six months ago this was apple cores and slimy spinach shred leaves old
coffee grounds and now it’s rich dark compost. What a transformation! This
compost will feed your soil making your garden strong healthy and happy and the
next harvest will be one that feeds you and your family. Are you ready for
healthy delicious vegetables and gorgeous flowers? Welcome back for video
three of Quick Start to Composting. If we haven’t met yet I’m Amy Landers
thank you for joining me I’m so glad that you’re here my husband Colby and I
are the gardeners and bloggers behind GardensThatMatter.com where we teach
families how to create beautiful bountiful gardens once again thank you
to everyone who commented or sent emails about videos one and two it’s really
exciting to hear about what you’re creating and if you’ve started building
your bin congratulations you’re an official composter you’re taking trash
and turning it into treasure today I’m gonna reveal the treasure inside this
finished compost bin and I’m gonna give you three tips to speed up your
composting process so you can get to your treasure sooner let’s start with a
review of video one and two you can go back and watch those if you missed them
but here are a few of the highlights compost happens when we put together
organic matter and add air and water and give it time to heat up and decompose
when you add compost to your soil it forms houmous a key ingredient in
fertile soil composting has so many benefits it improves soil structure and
it increases soils ability to hold water it adds nutrients to the soil and makes
existing soil nutrients more available for plants compost adds life to the soil
and it also helps suppress some diseases and that’s not all composting reduces
waste that would otherwise go to landfills and incinerators composting
reduces pollution and erosion compost can even help clean up pollution when we
compost we decrease our need for fossil fuels and composting helps you close the
loop waste becomes resource compost is nothing short of awesome it’s great for
the planet and it’s great for your own patch of soil next we talked about what
you can compost and what you should leave out of your pile I won’t recap all
those right now but be sure to download your free
infographic and you got our no fuss compost bin workbook I showed you how to
build our favorite type of composting container this simple inexpensive wire
bin and we talked about how to pick that perfect convenient place for your bin
have you done that check we’ve talked about two styles of composting batch and
as you go this wire bin is an as you go pile that we’ve filled with kitchen
scraps and leaves we stopped adding to it about six months ago I think we’ve
turned it once but otherwise we’ve just let it decompose over time you can see
that it’s shrunk down to about a third of its original size and that’s pretty
normal as I’ve said before decomposition is going to happen no matter what so you
can be a laid back composter and still have good results in six to twelve
months but what if you don’t want to wait that long well before we break open
this pin let’s talk about how to get compost faster here are three ways to
speed up your composting number one start with smaller materials
so for example your leaves could be shredded before putting them in your bin
when you increase the surface area of your materials they will decompose
faster naturally when you mow your grass the clippings get shredded into tiny
bits you can also use your lawnmower to shred up leaves weeds and other garden
waste before you add it to your bin using a lawnmower with a bag attached is
an awesome composting tool another option for shredding material is a
chipper shredder these are a little more expensive and less common for backyard
gardeners however if you want to make a big batch of compost it might be worth
finding one to borrow or rent for a day these allow you to chip up small pieces
of wood and shred up leaves and garden waste if you have access to one they are
really handy now if mowing or chipping your yard
waste aren’t options for you you can cut up materials with a machete or garden
shears you can also just rip it and tear it up
into small pieces with your hands junk mail and other paper can be shredded
with a standard office shredder or turn up by hand fruits vegetables and other
food scraps can be chopped torn and crushed into small bits before putting
them in your collection pail some people even blend up their kitchen scraps
before adding them to their bin you probably don’t need to go that far
unless you’re trying to break a compost speed record but it is an option number
two another way to speed up your composting is to get your combination of
greens and browns just right which usually means adding plenty of greens
especially in autumn when dry brown materials like leaves are abundant you
may need to be very intentional about adding green let’s take a deeper look at
some nitrogen rich materials that will help get your pile decomposing hot and
fast we’ve already talked about some great sources like fresh grass clippings
and garden waste kitchen waste and coffee grounds hair is
also very high in nitrogen human and pet hair are both good another nitrogen
source that might be a little surprising is urine you could think of this as a
side benefit if you have boys like I do who sometimes can’t hold it long enough
to go inside you can suggest that they go on the
compost bin instead you can also get a bag of alfalfa meal or pellets from the
feed store or blood meal from the garden supply store these are easy to sprinkle
in between the layers of shredded leaves finding extra nitrogen rich materials is
also a great way to get your community involved maybe you have neighbors who
would donate their grass clippings or kitchen scraps go ahead and get their
leaves while you’re at it if you have coffee regularly at work or church maybe
you can bring the coffee grounds home you’ll be saving the earth while making
more compost for your garden now there is such a thing as too much nitrogen and
it can make your pile stinky and even a little slimy if you’re gonna work on
perfecting this balance to speed up your composting I recommend that you take
time to learn more about the carbon nitrogen ratios of the materials you’re
thinking of using number three now we’ll get to the third and in my opinion best
way to speed up composting turn baby turn turning your compost is not
necessary but it will definitely speed decomposition along it adds oxygen and
aerates your pile it mixes up the materials so the less decomposed the
materials on the outside and top get turned into the center where the action
is happening and any matted materials gets left back up the aeration and
mixing will get your compost hot and that means faster breakdown turning your
pile also gives you a chance to adjust things like moisture and the amounts of
browns and greens in your pile when you get in there you’ll know if your pile is
too dry and need some extra water or too wet you’ll want to add extra Brown
materials if your pile smells like ammonia that’s a good clue that you have
too many greens and on the other hand if your pile doesn’t seem to be doing
anything at all you can add more greens to fire it back up how often you turn
depends on your goal again you don’t have to turn it all or you can turn a
few times at the most extreme into this spectrum there’s the berkeley compost
method where you can get compost in eighteen days by turning it about seven
times I haven’t tried this yet but I’m curious and I’ll let you know if I do
let’s head out to the pasture where I have a band that is ready to turn this
is one of our simple compost heaps out near the barn it’s a mix of leaves horse
grass clippings and spoiled hey we’ve got several like this around the farm
and this one was just turned a few days ago it should be ready just in time for
our spring garden planting and this is one of our wire bins it’s kind of a test
fit we’re curious to see how it compares to the heap and we’re also wondering how
does our mix of horse manure and leaves grass clippings and hay compared to the
kitchen waste bin that’s closer to the house today I’m going to demonstrate how
to turn the material in this bin the easiest way to do this is to take the
empty bin and set it right next to your pile and then turn it as you move the
material back into the bin so first make sure your areas clear and level next
unhook your wire you can unhook unwind the wires or you can get a helper and
lift the bin right off the top hmm do you remember how we started our pile in
video 2 roughage we want a nice layer of coarse material so we’ve got good
drainage and air circulation I’ve got some sticks here next I’m going to turn
the material back into our bin what I’m gonna try to do is get this outer
material on the inside of the bin in the center and that way the inner material
that’s more broken down will end up on the outside of our new bin I’ll mix it
as I go and break up any matted material that I find as I’m turning and mixing
I’m paying attention to how wet the material is it’s too dry I’ll add water
if it’s too soggy I’ll add some more dry Brown remember we’re going for a run-out
sponge as I’m getting down to the bottom I’m
getting into that course material that I laid down when I first created the bin
I’m just gonna pull it out and lay it to the side I can use it for my next turn
if a little bit gets mixed in it’s no problem all right there we go
it turned bin you can see how much it fluffed up with the addition of all that
air we’re expecting in quite a bit of rain so I’m gonna put a makeshift lid on
top that’s made out of scrap tin this is a quick and easy solution to make sure
my bin doesn’t get too waterlogged now our compost microbes have plenty of air
and water they’re gonna keep breaking down that nitrogen and carbon rich
material the pile is gonna heat back up again as they do their work depending on
our schedule I might turn this pile again once it cools back down turning is
one of the best ways to keep your pile active and make compost faster are you
ready to see some finished compost while I head back to the house let me tell you
how you’ll know when your compost is finished
what is finished compost in composting terms finish means that the compost is
stable and ready to use in your yard and garden the process of decomposition has
slowed down and the compost doesn’t heat back up when you turn or water your pile
it’s well on its way to becoming the beneficial houmous we talked about in
video number one other names for finished compost or cured aged or mature
compost if you use unfinished compost it will continue decomposing in your garden
which isn’t a big deal in fall or winter but you’ll want to be careful if you add
unfinished compost during the growing season it may compete with your plants
for nitrogen and even stunt their growth also mini seeds don’t germinate as well
in unfinished compost so you’ll want to be sure your compost is finished you’ll
know your compost is finished when the original materials are mostly
unidentifiable you won’t be able to tell that something is a banana peel or a
maple leaf things like wood chips and avocado pits may still be around you can
screen those out and put them into your bin for another go-round
finished compost has a nice earthy smell it is dark brown or black in color it
has a uniform texture a crumbly sponginess and it is cool to the touch
if you find earthworms in your compost pile that’s a good sign it’s ready to
use our firms won’t venture up into a hot pile okay now it’s time let’s break
open this bin and see how it looks inside the first thing I’m going to do
is take the leaves off the top I’m just gonna move these to this back bin it’s
fairly new and as you can see it’s a great example of why you should put your
bin on level ground we actually did start with a level pad of mulch but
several inches of rain and we’ve got the leaning tower of compost putting these
leaves on top isn’t gonna hurt okay that should do it now I’m going to unwrap the
wires at the seam you could also pull the bin right off the top all right let
me move this fencing out of the way I’m gonna bring back the wheelbarrow and the
sifter well take a look at that rich dark beautiful compost just needs a
little bit of sifting we use a simple homemade sifter to screen our compost
the sifter catches any large less decomposed pieces like the occasional
stick or corn cob we’ll just take these and put them in our next compost pile
a sifter isn’t necessary but we like the way it gives us a nice uniform
consistency makes the compost easy to add to our soil uses mulch or put in our
house plants we’re gonna take what we harvest today and add it to a new bed
that we’re preparing for garlic I think we’re gonna plant it next week if we
have any extra we’ll save it first spring plantings our garden will be very
happy there you go now you’ll know when your
compost is ready and some ways to speed it up if you’d like I hope you found
this free video series helpful composting really is the cornerstone of
a healthy garden and a sustainable home and you are on your way so what’s the
next step now that you have the basics of composting you’re ready to start
improving your garden from the ground up healthy soil has so many incredible
benefits and there are many different methods for building and nurturing
healthy soil far more than we could fit into this training once you start
composting there are other questions to answer how can you really fit pom
posting into your own unique situation and how can you make sure that you have
a steady supply of compost so that you have it whenever you need it from there
you can think about the big picture how do you really understand what is going
on in your soil and how can you improve your soil to help your plants be more
productive what are some of those other methods for building healthy soil and
how can you manage the problems like pests and disease and weeds so that you
get more of what you do want in your garden if you’re interested in finding
detailed answers to these questions and more I’ve got good news
composting is only one small part of the Advanced Course that I mentioned earlier
foundations of a happy garden foundations of a happy garden is an
online course designed to help you lay the groundwork for a thriving abundant
garden you wouldn’t build a house without a foundation your garden starts
from the ground up as well healthy soil is the foundation for a
happy garden no matter what this season you can take steps today to build and
nurture healthy living soil our in-depth video training is perfect for those who
want to learn how to garden with nature to grow more food and more beauty in
their own backyards when you’re ready to take the next step
click the link below to request your invitation to foundations of a happy
garden when you click your invitation will include all the details about the
course modules workbook step-by-step tutorials and some great bonus materials
I hope you’ll take the next step with me but
matter what thanks again for watching from our family to yours all the best in
creating a garden that matters I’m gonna get back to sifting compost and I’ll see
you again soon

72 thoughts on “How to Make Compost Faster (and Know When It’s Ready!) [Quick Start to Composting Part 3]

  1. Garden waste from other people is never a good idea. The herbicide market is big business for a reason. Anyone with a household income of about $50K or more usually sprays their yard with herbicides or pays someone to do it. If you want good, non-poisonous compost, only use your own yard waste materials (assuming you do not poison your lawn and trees).

  2. You don't need to fully compost tree leaves. I grow things out of half composted tree leaves directly. I also dump coffee ground right into a raised bed or underneath my roses and strawberries. In fact, you don't need to compost anything. Just dump everything into a raise bed including grass clippings, coffee ground, some wine that you haven't finished, etc etc. My conclusion is, there is NO need to compost anything. For food scrap, you can dig a hole and put something heavy on the top. Then wait 3 months before you plant a shrub. Again, there is NO need to compost.

  3. I can’t keep my 3 1/2’ compost staying built up, thanks to hubby buying chickens. The varmint birds are constantly getting out, scratching my compost flat, eating all the bugs & worms needed to breakdown the compost.

  4. My compost from last year looks black, is full of worms, but isn't fluffy or loose, it's quite clumpy. I've been turning it every week since last year but my seeds this year have very stunted growth in it. Perhaps I didn't get the mix right between leaves and greens. I put it down to bad weather but other people have tall growth while I have about 2cm after 3 weeks and look rather tired. It's too late for me to grow tomatoes now I imagine. Disappointing. I wish I bought compost from the store.

  5. Thank you for the video Amy, and all the fluent and excellent detailed work of composting. I really enjoyed the way you explained how it all works and how incredibly beneficial it is for our gardens etc. I love composting, and I am currently trying to encourage  the neighbours to view your video to see how very beneficial composting actually is. I have leaf mould, compost, and rotted horse manure, and when they all mixed together when aged, I get AMAZING FREE ideal soil additive or mulch for my flower garden thus my flowers really take off in happy and healthy soil full of earthworms all living together perfectly. Cheers and regards from the countryside near Scotland, UK.

  6. This is the first video i find on youtube, describing, explaining and exhibiting to us all the content in the simplest terms. Thanks so yo much. Most videos especially made in america, have guys talking too much. I shall definitely enrol to your composting course. and use your knowledge for my future projects. By the way, may i please offer you guys an open invitation to my farm in uganda, if you so wish. Your videos are so enriching. Good job!

  7. This is the bestest video on the internet about compost for sure without fail did you know human bodies can be reused too as compost

  8. I have a tote put grass clippings, shredded junk mail, a scoop of dirt and fall leaves when available. I cant just throw this stuff out because apt manager would loose his mind…lol

  9. Thanks for the video it was well put together can you tell me how you made your simple compost sifter or if you have a video on it

  10. When making compost and putting in the left over parts of food, won’t that attract snakes groundhogs rats and mice?

  11. Hands down…… this is the best composting series on You Tube; even including downloadable Quick Starts. I am much more confident of producing a successful compost now (humus). Amy, I wish you were my neighbor!

  12. I’ve been working on a CBCB (Carbon Based Composting Bin) for a few years now with great results. I start with a “bin” (4’x4’x 3’ high) topped full with just minced leaves like you using my lawn mower as a shredder. Then I add liquid nitrogen that comes from processing food I feed to my worm bins.

    My CBCB temperature reach 160F very quickly, and consistent for at least two months at a time. I have a few videos of the process if anyone’s interested.
    https://youtu.be/aVQLcNyywH0

  13. I use a an old blender to puree all my "greens" from the house….fruits,veggie scraps and coffee grounds..etc. I have a hand cranked compost tumbler that I pour my puree into mixed with ground up leaves and grass clippings. Works great. I find the smaller I can get the material.. lawnmower, chipper and blender all of which I employ the quicker I get end product.

  14. Also a good way to improve soil structure is to directly bury kitchen scraps in it. In addition it attracts many worms. An old method that works. 🙂

  15. The farm in my city uses those type of composts! It’s the oldest building in the city and offers gardening/food class through the community college, it’s pretty cool! 👩‍🌾

  16. I really liked your videos om composting probably the best I've seen! I can totally agree with you that composting in the way to go. In your video Part 3 you mentioned that you have not yet tried a tumbler. So, I purchased one many years ago from composttumbler.com in Lititz, PA. It handles 18 bushels at a time. You just add the 60/40 Brown/Green ratio plant materials to it and turn the geared handle 10 rotations day. In two or three weeks it's done! Then you have perfect brown/ black, sweet smelling, fully cured compost that the plants crave so much. Smoke and steam will billow from the vents after the first day or two. It really heats up to around 170 degrees at the center killing all the weed seeds in the process. I love this machine. So easy to use and built like a tank too. Never a failure at all. I would highly recommend this machine. In addition I sheet compost my garden with well rotted horse manure, straw, mulched leaves, crushed egg shells. kitchen veggie scraps, coffee grinds and this compost. When I start a bed I usually put 8"-10" of the manure on top to entirely change the structure of the soil, add Rock Phosphate and Jersey Green Sand, throw a few loads of compost from the tumbler on and then till it in with one of those little Mantis tillers. I have the blackest richest loam now and can grow anything. To fertilize I only use two things: Alaskan Deodorized Fish Emulsion and Liquid Sea Weed 50/50 mix in a Miracle Grow hose sprayer. Only the Fish Emulsion Nitrogen and the 100+ micro-nutrients from the liquid Sea Weed are needed to keep all the plants VERY happy!

  17. i have a heap compost at the foot of my garden where i toss my weeds and kitchen scraps it get a lot of added dirt from pulling weeds but have a problem with the broad leaf weeds that have large tap roots growing in it

  18. Thank you for your videos. For the rainy season, is that enough what you covered on the top of the bin?What about bottom? Do we need to keep it on a raised place?

  19. …please, my dear, wear gloves !! at ALL times ….and thanx for your help re compost !!!!!!!!!!!!!

  20. Urine composting works for me and so does burying a fish into the compost and bury fish into the garden, it really promotes plant growth.

  21. Something is happening to you number 3 video, and monitzation today…its spinning and keeps forcing me to reload your video, Andi have to rewatch the advertisement. I recommend you re upload your video, or at least check by watching your video thru to the end and see what it's doing. Yes, all other videos have been fine.

  22. I love your videos and agree with your composting ideas, especially when you find big juicy worms. That's when I know I got some good stuff, money can't buy. I do wonder though, I keep mine in a fairly sunny spot behind my garage, thinking it would compost faster? Also, do you really garden in light colored pants, haha? I'm a mess and wear really crappy clothes when I garden.

  23. what is the fastest that compost can be made? I just bought a comost bin that tumbles. It should be just about ideal conditions. If we use grass clippings and shredded browns and tumble it often?

  24. Cut grass can be thrown right on your garden. But for kitchen scraps the cut grass helps it decompose faster. I get it.

  25. Thank you so much for this video – I still struggle with making compost as it is difficult to find the needed ingredients. I have and use the weeds and kitchen scraps but leaves, coffee grounds and manure are almost impossible to find .- I live amongst conifers. Is there something else that I can use successfully? Would be grateful for your help.

  26. I added blood meal and coffee grounds to my compost pile. The next time I tuned it, it was full of worms and they went crazy.

  27. I would feed my compost pile to worms but a little bit at a time. Eggshells if washed and sterilized for 10 minutes ate 375 degrees F. The calcium increases the shelf life of your vegetables. The Worms turn chitin from the eggshells make the enzyme chitinase which dissolves the exoskeletons of aphids. If you add minerals (rock dust) to your worm bin, the worms will give you chelated minerals which are easily absorbed by your plants.

  28. @9:04, I thought your helper was wearing a backpack, but it was a baby Cute! @15:08 no denying the little tyke is yours – Them Eyes! 🙂
    Enjoyable vid & I learned some tips, TY. With an inner-city backyard plot, I always wanted to try composting.

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