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Make Compost Fast With These Easy Tips

Gardening is my escape and my passion. Learn how to grow some vegetables right in your own backyard.

School garden compost bin

School garden compost bin

Make Compost Fast Using a Compost Bin

We all know that composting your yard and kitchen waste is the right thing to do, both for your garden soil and your community, state, country, and our planet. If you've never composted before, it may sound like a lot of work or even complicated - it's not. Using these simplified guildlines along with resources to get started composting will have you composting with low effort and high yields.

What Materials Do I Need To Compost?

What can you put in a compost pile?

- Kitchen waste (vegetables and fruit scraps)

- Yard Waste (grass cuttings, weeds)

- Garden Waste (finished plants trimmed plants, i.e. carrot or beet tops)

- "Borrowed" Waste (coffee grounds)

Just as important, do NOT put these items in:

- Meat

- Grease, fats

- Dairy products

Where Do I Start the Compost Pile?

You will need someplace to put the material that's composting. Here are some typical places to start a pile:

- A plain, simple pile of material

- A trench

- A "nest"

- A simple bin built from wood or concrete blocks

- A commercial composting bin

- A compost tumbler

Community Garden Compost

Community Garden Compost

What Is the Compost Recipe?

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A basic compost recipe to follow

If you are into numbers, a pile built with a carbon to nitrogen ratio of about 30 is considered optimum. Most folks aren't interested in calculating that, so a good rule of thumb is to use about a 50/50 mix of green vegetation (grass clippings, fresh vegetation, coffee grounds - oddly they count as "green") mixed with brown waste (fall leaves, sawdust, shredded tree branches).

Anything you do to break up the raw material (e.g. shred it, chop it, etc.) will work to accelerate the process.

Mix them in layers, about 6 inches of green and brown alternated. Add enough water so the end product mix is damp, like a damp washcloth. It is possible to have either too much or too little water. Add in some old compost or just soil (or a commercial compost activator product) to provide a source of the micro-organisms that will start to compost the pile.

Which Method Should I Use To Get Results In the Quickest Way?

You will have to decide on the time and speed tradeoff for your compost pile output.

If you really want to get compost fast, then you need to help the pile along by moving material into the hotter middle part of the pile periodically. This can be accomplished a number of ways:

- Use a compost aerator tool like the compost crank to turn the compost in a single bin

- Use multiple bins, and turn the compost from one bin to the next to turn it over

- Use a compost tumbler, and simply turn the unit periodically.

Or you can just leave it for a few months and it will eventually break down.

There is nothing like harvesting that black gold compost and adding it to your spring garden planting. It's a rich feeling that you did something good for the earth (recycling all that kitchen waste) and returned it to the earth. In this green world, that's what it's all about!

Pros and Cons of Compost Tumbers

Compost tumblers are the ultimate composting tool. They allow you to make compost quickly, and a tumbler often requires less work.

Here are some pros and cons of compost tumblers.

Easy Rotation of Your Compost Pile

The key to quick composting is to work the pile every few days, to get all the waste material to get to the hot center of the pile. This active center is where the action is, but it can be difficult to get all the material into the middle of the pile. Simply spinning or rotating a tumbler is the easiest way to get this done.

Conserving Compost Pile Moisture

With its enclosed sides, a tumbler will do a better job of retaining moisture in hot dry weather. It will also keep excess moisture out during the rainy season. A pile that's too wet can be a smelly pile.

Pest Control

Compost tumblers, especially those that stand above ground, make it hard for rodents and other pests to get into the waste pile, not to mention the food you have stored there.

Ease of loading/ unloading

This varies a lot based on the individual composter design. A higher mounted design will be easier to unload into a wheelbarrow. Some of the roll around varieties are easier to put material in to, but if you don't dump the material out directly into the garden then it may be more difficult to unload.


Many gardeners like the looks of a freestanding compost pile, but many people prefer the look of an enclosed bins to keep the pile out of view.

Green and Brown Material for Compost


Alfalfa, algae, clover, coffee grounds, food waste, garden waste, grass clipping

Ashes from wood, bark, cardboard (shredded), corn stalks, fruit waste, leaves, newspaper (shredded), peanut shells

Hay, hedge clippings, hops (used), manure, seaweed, vegetable scraps, and weeds without seeds in them

Peat moss, pine needles, sawdust, stems and twigs (shredded), straw, vegetable stalks

When Is The Compost Ready?

After layering and turning and "cooking" all your compost ingredients, how do you know when it is ready to use? Simple: when all the original sources of organic matter are no longer recognizable in their original form, your compost is ready. You should have a rich, black soil coming from the bottom of your pile. If you find material like sticks or stalks not yet broken down; just put them back on the top of the pile. Otherwise, Mother Nature has done her job and you have recycled and are ready to reuse components that would have otherwise been discarded in a landfill.

The results of good soil

The results of good soil

Kitchen Food Scraps

Get In the Habit

It's so easy to add your kitchen scraps to your compost pile. When you are cooking just keep a pile of the discarded parts of vegetables or fruits and also egg shells off to the side or in a bowl or on a plastic bag (that you just likely took the vegetable out of!). After you are finished, scoop them up and put them in a container just outside your door. I use a small wooden bucket just outside our back door because it's a 100-foot walk from our door to our garden. Then every time I go out to that side of the yard I just pick up the bucket by it's handle and bring it with me to the compost pile. One Thanksgiving, we must have put four buckets of scraps on the compost pile and just think how much room that left in the kitchen trash and how much better it is for the earth!

You can also use a kitchen compost container to store your scraps in until you are ready to head out to the pile. It used to be these could get pretty ripe smelling, but now they are made to foster the odors. My sister-in-law uses one daily.

One should always have a compost bucket at the ready!

One should always have a compost bucket at the ready!

Baskets, Buckets, Containers

Once you start gardening, you will find containers a plenty in your possession. Most are recyclable but I keep them to use when weeding, harvesting, and since they have drainage holes already in them, you can just rinse off your harvest before bringing in the house.

If you enjoy bargains, look for baskets at yard sales and thrift stores.

More Tips to Speed Up Your Compost Bin

You can always take the slow road, most things will eventually compost over time. Even the largest fallen trees in the middle of the forest eventually decompose. However if you are interested in having compost in just a matter of weeks, pay attention to the following items:

1) Watch the carbon to nitrogen ratio. Keep the ratio of brown to green materials at about 2:1.

2) Use a chipper or a shredder to break down the raw material.

3) Turn your pile often. Simply turning the compost pile with a compost turner or pitchfork will do the trick.

4) Monitor the moisture level of the compost pile. The material of a working compost pile should feel like damp sponge. If you let it dry out, things stop working.

If you can't get the pile started you might try a compost starter.

Use these tips to jump start your compost pile, and you should have "black gold" in no time!

Other Recycling Tips

Getting Yourself Green

In addition to our organic composting, we also recycle paper, plastic and cans through our waste management service. This small effort greatly reduces our trash pickup. As an example, when all of our kids were living at home we had the largest family on our cul-du-sac. We also had the least amount of trash, and still do.

At the holidays we do our best to use recycled bags, boxes, and even tissue paper. One year, my daughter used the color pictures of a newspaper to wrap some gifts.

Don't delay - do it today!

recycle bins outside of Whole Foods in Colleyville, TX

recycle bins outside of Whole Foods in Colleyville, TX

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2007 Joanie Ruppel

Good Ideas on Finding Free Compost Material

Kathryn Grace from San Francisco on February 03, 2014:

Ah, I wish I'd had that compost turner when I still had a garden. That would have been much easier than using a pitchfork. I always managed to spread the composting material too much with the fork. Thank you for sharing your composting knowledge. Nothing like homemade black gold to give a garden a boost.

lewisgirl on January 23, 2014:

I have a large garden, yard and lots of trees who shed lots of leaves. So it has been easy to compost. Love your lens.

evawrites1 on January 23, 2014:

Such a useful article! Answering to your question, I don't need more compost material in my small apartment :)

Womansfavourite on January 21, 2014:

Can pick up coffee grounds from our local Starbucks

Joanie Ruppel (author) from Keller, Texas on June 23, 2013:

@MariaMontgomery: I love that you are still composting under extreme conditions. Once it's gets in your routine, it's hard to stop, isn't it? Congrats on your creativity and keep being organic!

MariaMontgomery from Coastal Alabama, USA on June 22, 2013:

I've been composting for years, but now we live in a community where the yards are extremely small, so having a compost pile/bin is difficult. I'm making a small pile in front of some shrubs that hide it from the neighboring yards and covering it with pine needles so it is not seen from my yard. Wish me luck. Great lens!

MariaMontgomery from Coastal Alabama, USA on June 22, 2013:

I've been composting for years, but now we live in a community where the yards are extremely small, so having a compost pile/bin is difficult. I'm making a small pile in front of some shrubs that hide it from the neighboring yards and covering it with pine needles so it is not seen from my yard. Wish me luck. Great lens!

Renaissance Woman from Colorado on February 10, 2013:

Appreciate the tips. I decided to go with vermiculture (worm composting) and a homemade tumbling composter because of all of the animals that would get into a ground bin or pile.

Joanie Ruppel (author) from Keller, Texas on November 29, 2012:

@rattie lm: Surely you have some black gold in the bottom of your compost pile! I hope so!! Thanks for all your comments.

rattie lm on November 23, 2012:

I was reading this and wondering where all my kitchen scraps (and there are many of them!) go! I have a composter that is alive with mini beasts and we add to it every day. Sadly we rarely turn it over - BUT I WILL NOW! We have used it for about five years, it doesn't smell, and something must go somewhere. Ok. Got your tips, so will change my habits - promise!

BeadCatz on May 12, 2012:

Great post. I have been wanting to add composting to our gardening. I just may start building one this year.

Joanie Ruppel (author) from Keller, Texas on April 29, 2012:

@Einar A: Thanks! Happy Composting!

Einar A on April 28, 2012:

Lots of good ideas, here.

anonymous on February 27, 2012:

thanks for the tips

Airyu2011 on January 28, 2012:

Nice lens, I started an organic farm here in NH and now I compost nearly everything!

Joanie Ruppel (author) from Keller, Texas on January 17, 2012:

Just noticed that our city has a Christmas tree recycling station where they mulch the trees and it's first come first serve on helping yourself to the mulch - awesome and FREE!

Joanie Ruppel (author) from Keller, Texas on January 14, 2012:

@bossypants: That's really going the extra mile, bet your garden is all the better for it!

bossypants on January 13, 2012:

We aren't coffee drinkers but when our overnight guests make their morning coffee, I grab the filter of used grounds before they can toss them in the trash so our compost tumbler can have a snack!

Organic-Squidster on November 07, 2011:

Good lens - nice and simple :-)

lemonsqueezy lm on August 10, 2011:

Oh... we might "need" a compost aerator. Hmmm...

HarryHouseholder on July 22, 2011:

Great lens! We cook from scratch, so our kitchen produces a lot of organic material for our compost pile. We also have a lot of material from our backyard flower and veggie gardens. However, the neighbors are happy to add their compost ingredients too. The only thing is: (1) You have to teach them what to include and what to leave out. (2) They'll want you to collect the garbage daily. To make the latter less of a problem, buy (or make) a low-odor kitchen waste bucket for the neighbors. Then, they're okay if you visit once or twice a week.

Joanie Ruppel (author) from Keller, Texas on July 15, 2011:

@serenity4me lm: When you do, the rich black compost will make you feel rich!

serenity4me lm on July 08, 2011:

Nice lens, thank you. I keep thinking that one day I'm going to have to take a serious look at making my own compost, if gets quite expensive to buy for all the little gardens I have in my yard.

kare2share on March 28, 2011:

Thanks for the helpful info -- you make it sound so easy! I'm planning to start composting soon, and your tips will come in very handy.

jackieb99 on February 27, 2011:

You have some excellent tips, thank you.

jackieb99 on February 27, 2011:

You have some excellent tips, thank you.

GeothermalVids on September 09, 2009:

Thanks for this interesting lens. I am working on going green and work with geothermal . I didn't know much about composting until looking at your lens.

Sherry Venegas from La Verne, CA on March 13, 2009:

Thanks for joining "To Compost or Not To Compost?" Group. This is a good informative lens.

Deborah Swain from Rome, Italy on April 21, 2008:

5 *****s from me too!

anonymous on March 18, 2008:

5 from me too, a few more and it should get higher!

Delia on March 13, 2008:

why would someone leave you 3*s??? this is a very informative lens 5*s from me

Euryale Sinclair from The Left Coast on March 06, 2008:

Since the number of lenses in the Green Thumb has grown into a huge steaming pile, I've decided to hold a lens challenge to determine the best. I don't think the group needs every lens on compost as much as it would benefit from just having the best ones.

The Challenge runs from now through the end of March. Promote those lenses and on April 1st, the top three compost and compost-related lenses (as determined by lensrank) will get to stay in the group and the others will be booted.

I'm sorry if anyone thinks I'm being mean, but I believe that gardens needs the best and healthiest plants and biodiversity, and so do lens Groups.

Good luck and may the best compost lenses win!

- Euryale

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