There are many advantages to fast composting, but to take advantage of them, you need to have enough materials that can compost within one month and an understanding of how fast compost gets made.
Don’t worry if you don’t, though, because we’ve got everything you need to know right here.
what is fast compost?
Fast compost is a variety of compost that can be completed in as little as two to three weeks. Other types of composting can take over a year!
Fast composting differs from slower composting methods because it relies on a specific ratio of carbon to nitrogen to feed the organisms responsible for breaking down the compost materials.
Maintaining this “golden ratio” makes the composting process more efficient, and therefore it takes less time!
is fast composting the same as the “berkeley method”?
Yes. Fast composting is often referred to as the “Berkeley Method” of composting.
Fast composting is also referred to as “hot composting.”
how do you make fast compost?
Fast compost relies on both carbon and nitrogen-rich materials for success. These materials must be maintained at a ratio of 30:1 – thirty carbon to one nitrogen.
This ratio creates the ideal environment for composting.
To begin fast composting, you need to gather your carbon-rich materials and cut them into small pieces. This will help to speed up the composting process.
You do not need to shred your nitrogen-rich material because it will break down very quickly during composting anyway.
To fast compost, you need to combine a mixture of your carbon-rich and your nitrogen-rich materials to attain a ratio of 30:1.
This can take some calculation since different materials contribute to this ratio in different quantities.
Once your compost materials are cut into small pieces, combine them and mix well. You may need to add some water if your pile of material is particularly dry.
We want the compost heap to be nicely moist. Mix your materials evenly.
When you begin making your fast compost pile, you need to start a pile that is between four and five feet each way.
Be sure to include plenty of cut sticks in your compost materials because they create air pockets that help to aerate your compost pile.
Once your materials are piled, take a piece of carpet and put it on the top of the pile. Carpet is thick enough for the compost pile to retain heat, yet it lets air and water pass through to the compost pile.
Let your compost pile sit for four days without turning it. Then, after the first four days, turn your compost heap every two days for fourteen days.
As you turn, make sure that material from the outside of the pile is moved to the inside and vice-versa.
When you turn your compost you are providing more oxygen for the organisms that are breaking down the materials in your compost pile.
During aeration, you also want to check that your compost pile is still moist. A dry compost pile is not going to break down quickly.
You can check the moisture content of your compost by squeezing a handful. If the compost is moist enough, you should see just one or two drops of water. Add more water if needed.
Eight days into the process, you need to track your composting progress. Using a composting thermometer, take the temperature of your pile.
You are aiming for a temperature of 131-149 °F.
Continue turning your compost every two days until you are eighteen days into the process.
By day eighteen, your compost should be finished and ready to harvest!
what materials can go into fast compost?
Anything that was once alive can be put into a hot compost pile.
Don’t forget, though, that fast compost requires much more carbon-rich materials than nitrogen-rich materials as noted in the 30:1 carbon to nitrogen ratio.
To maintain this ratio, you need a rough idea of the carbon and nitrogen content of different materials.
Ten of the more common fast composting materials are noted in the table below along with their carbon to nitrogen ratio.
|High Carbon Materials
|High Nitrogen Materials
You can find a rather comprehensive table of carbon to nitrogen values for composting materials on DeepGreenPermaculture.com.
is there anything I should not put in my fast compost?
There are some items that you should never put into compost whether it is fast or “slow” compost. These items include:
- Anything that has been chemically treated
- Pet feces
- Printer paper
- The contents of your vacuum
- Citrus peel
what should I do if my fast compost…
If your fast compost pile is not heating up fast enough, the most likely cause is a lack of “green” or Nitrogen.
If your fast compost pile is too hot and seems to be “deflating,” the most likely cause is a lack of “brown” or carbon.
do I need to layer carbon and nitrogen in fast composting?
There are two methods of fast composting. First, simply mix your carbon-rich and nitrogen-rich materials into one big pile.
The second method of fast composting is the traditional Berkeley Method and involves putting carbon-rich and nitrogen-rich materials on top of each other in layers.
why does fast composting take so little time?
Fast composting doesn’t take as long as other composting methods because of how the compost pile is managed. This includes:
- Having a good ratio of carbon to nitrogen
- Maintaining a healthy level of moisture
- Maintaining a healthy level of oxygen
- Keeping your compost pile a good size
- Monitoring the temperature of the compost pile
- Filtering what items go into the compost
- Cutting compost material into smaller pieces
what should the ratio of carbon to nitrogen be in fast compost?
The ideal recommended ratio of carbon to nitrogen should be 30:1.
how is the carbon to nitrogen ratio in compost measured?
The carbon to nitrogen ratio in compost is measured by weight.
is there an easier way to get the right carbon to nitrogen ratio in fast compost?
Although it is not as accurate of a measuring technique, some gardeners simplify the carbon to nitrogen ratio into “one bucket green, two buckets brown.” So, for every one bucket of nitrogen-rich material, you would mix two buckets of carbon-rich material.
why is the ratio of carbon to nitrogen in fast compost important?
The organisms that break down the material in your compost heap rely on carbon and nitrogen in these specific ratios as nutrients. Without the proper nutrients, these organisms would be unable to effectively break down the material in the compost pile.
what happens if my compost carbon to nitrogen ratio is too high?
If the ratio of carbon to nitrogen is too high in your compost pile, your pile is going to take much longer to compost.
what happens if my compost carbon to nitrogen ratio is to low?
If the ratio of carbon to nitrogen is too low in your compost, your nitrogen loss gets emphasized.
what happens if my fast compost pile gets to hot?
If your fast compost pile gets too hot (anything over 149 °F), you will start to notice a white substance that is often called “white mold” or “fire blight” spreading through your compost pile.
Once the temperature of your compost comes back to reasonable levels, the white substance will disappear.
what happens if my fast compost pile isn’t hot enough?
If your compost pile isn’t hot enough, your fast compost will take much longer to compost. This also signals that your carbon to nitrogen ratio is too high.
what are the benefits of fast composting?
Of course, one of the best benefits of fast composting is the quick turnaround time! Instead of waiting for a year or more for your compost, the Berkeley Method can get your composting complete in as little as two to three weeks!
Using a fast-composting method will result in much more compost than using a cold composting method.
Cold composting results in less compost and compost that is coarse in texture.
The reduction in compost is because cold composting takes much longer. During that time, more of the compost materials break down and the weight of the compost pile pulls it downward.
Insects and Disease-Causing Organisms Don’t Survive
Due to the heat that is produced during hot composting, insects and disease-causing organisms are unable to survive.
Cold composting methods do not kill insects and disease-causing organisms meaning that the final compost can carry a range of problematic agents.
why are there worms in my fast compost?
Don’t panic if you find worms in your fast compost! Worms are a good sign, it means that your compost is nutrient-rich and finally cool enough for them to survive in. In other words, your compost is ready!
Fast composting is a great and efficient way to compost, but it’s only successful when the right materials are used in the correct ratio.