How to accelerate compost

Written by meg campbell
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How to accelerate compost
Properly accelerated compost results in a clean, nutritious garden fertiliser. (Erdbeerpflanze image by lamaka from

Gardeners accelerate compost if a compost heap is beginning to rot, cannot retain moisture or has never been hot. To accelerate compost, an activator is introduced that increases the rate of decomposition of materials. Activators can be anything from bacteria and fungi in the form of a powder (microbial) to sources of organic nitrate (nutritional). According to the authors of "The Complete Compost Gardening Guide," nutritional activators will heat up the compost pile, kill mildew or other diseases residing in the material, and increase the rate at which the elements break down, making it the best choice for acceleration.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • 12 cubic feet old, moistened leaves (or other weathered material)
  • Hose
  • 24 cubic feet fresh grass cuttings (or other green materials)
  • 16 cubic feet chosen activator
  • Garden hoe
  • Rake
  • Cloth tarp
  • Bricks or large rocks

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  1. 1

    Place your compost heap in an 8-foot-square area of space. If it's inside a garbage can or other container, dump it out to accelerate it.

  2. 2

    Spread weathered, moistened material, such as old leaves, on top of the pile. Use the garden hoe to break apart any chunks of organic material.

  3. 3

    Apply a layer of fresh grass cuttings (or other green material, such as fresh leaves) equal to approximately 20 per cent of the entire compost pile's estimated weight.

  4. 4

    Dust the entire layer with your chosen accelerator. Accelerators include cottonseed meal, dry dog food (made of corn and soybean meal), alfalfa pellets (rabbit food), soybean meal, canola meal, or organic fertiliser. Moisten the layer with water.

  5. 5

    Add another layer of mixed green and old material, at least 3 inches deep. Apply a second layer of accelerator and moisten it with water.

  6. 6

    Wait 3 days, and rotate the heap with a rake. Add water to any dry spots as you turn the material. Continue to mix the compost in the same way every other day for 2 full weeks. The rotation activates the heat, which accelerates the compost.

  7. 7

    Cover the pile with a cloth tarp secured by bricks or rocks along the perimeter after the compost pile stops generating heat, in approximately 2 to 3 weeks. Secure the tarp so animals can't get under it. The compost will cure, untouched, beneath the tarp and be ready for use in 1 month.

Tips and warnings

  • Other organic materials that make excellent accelerators are human urine and seaweed. An ill person's urine shouldn't be used. Seaweed, although an excellent accelerator, must be applied with care or it won't be as beneficial as possible. It should be kept moist prior to joining the pile, and combined by inserting it in the middle of the heap to retain its moisture as it works. Water (or human urine) can be added to the mix to raise the overall moisture level if it appears dry. Moistness should be a damp moisture, not a soaked moisture.

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