Fast composting requires a balance of air, moisture and energy for microorganisms to produce enough heat to break down materials and kill weed seeds and disease. Compost can be piled in a heap but the process is faster and more efficient when it is contained in an enclosure or bin that maintains a warmer temperature. Without sufficient heat, the organic matter will take much longer to decompose, and it may not get hot enough to kill pathogens and seeds. Depending on how well you manage the compost bin, you can complete the process in as few as 6 weeks.
I have included 2 citations that provide 2 different ways in which you can make composting systems that make composting go faster.
From a chemical standpoint, you can add nitrogen of some form to the pile. The rule of thumb is 1 cup of 10-10-10 per pile for piles averaging three feet high and four feet wide. It helps to stir the fertilizer in a bit and spray the leaves lightly with water as you stir. This should lead to extra bacteria and fungi eating the organic material.
Hot composting, also called thermal composting or accelerated composting, can yield usable compost in 3-6 weeks, instead of the 3-6 months it takes to get usable compost from a static compost pile. Hot composting optimizes the size of the particles and mix of materials to generate high temperatures–upwards of 160 degrees!–that cause materials to break down more quickly. It takes a lot of work, especially the first week, because the pile needs to be turned almost every day until the core temperature starts dropping, but it has the advantage of killing weed seeds and plant pathogens, so you have a dark, rich, biodiverse compost at the end of the process.
Compost tumblers can make this process easier. A compost tumbler is designed to turn on an axis, either by using a hand crank or turning the tumbler itself. This is a much easier way of mixing the materials than turning the pile with a spading fork.
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