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Homesteading Secrets: 5 Fundamentals to Compost Faster

When you compost, you become a vital part of the circle of life. You take what would become toxic garbage in a landfill and help nature turn it into nutrient-dense dirt. You can use that dirt to live a more self-sufficient, homesteading life. 

But a slow compost can wreck your plans for living more sustainably. If not adequately managed, decomposition can take as long as two years. It’s even worse in colder climates. But you and your garden can enjoy that black gold in as few as 3-6 months if you apply these 5 compost fundamentals.

1. Check Its Temperature

An active compost produces a surprising amount of heat. It should generally stay between 50-70 C (125-160 F). It will steam on a cold morning.

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You can check its temperature with a compost thermometer or a meat thermometer (that you do not also use for meat).

Don’t despair if you can’t keep it hot 100% of the time. But hot compost decomposes faster. The next 4 fundamentals are all about keeping that compost hot and active.

2. Set Up More than One Compost

Your compost will never finish if you keep adding to it. Instead, fill up a compost pile, preferably within about 3 months. Then let it fully decompose for the next 3 months while you fill up another one. 

Many homesteading enthusiasts have 3 or 4. They produce and need a lot of compost for their self-sufficient permaculture garden ecosystems. 

3. Add Finished Compost to Your New One

Finished compost still has an abundance of microorganisms that break down the pile. Give your new pile a jumpstart by adding a gallon or more to the new pile.

It doesn’t take much.

4. Add a Mix of Materials

The ideal compost has approximately a 1:1 ratio of nitrogen-carbon. If too much of one or the other, it will rot and stink instead of decomposing.

In the homesteading world, we call nitrogen-adding waste “greens”. These come primarily from kitchen scraps like:

  • Veg tops, roots, and seeds
  • Corn cobs
  • Shells
  • Coffee grounds, loose tea leaves, and compostable tea bags
  • Spoiled food

 Grass clippings, weeds, chicken droppings, and prunings can also add nitrogen.

Items that add carbon are called “browns”. These include:

  • Cardboard
  • Paper
  • Dried leaves
  • Small sticks
  • Sawdust and shavings
  • Straw

Achieving 1/2 and 1/2 in a home compost isn’t an exact science. Most of these have a mix of both nitrogen and carbon. But you should strive for about half and half visually to get close enough that the compost does the rest.

5. Turn Your Compost Weekly

Composts must have air and water to decompose. Turning your compost and watering it if it’s dry can meet these requirements. 

Weekly turning is a minimum. Turning it every time it cools can speed it up. But if you’ve followed the other fundamentals, weekly may be sufficient. 

Compost piles can be heavy. So you’ll need to flip a shovel full at a time. Or get a compost aerator or auger, which makes regular compost turning much easier.

You can now look forward to nutrient-rich black compost faster than before.