The speed at which compost is made is determined largely by how much effort you are willing to put into the process. The easy, and slower, method requires you to create a well organized pile of material and simply let it sit for a year. The more speedy method requires extra effort to initally chop up the material and then frequently turn the pile but will reduce the composting process to a matter of weeks.
The following composting instructions are an abbreviated version of the University of California Berkeley Composting Method. For the full explanation of this method please refer to http://vric.ucdavis.edu/pdf/compost_rapidcompost.pdf
Material composts best if it is between 1/2" and 1 1/2" in size. The harder the material the smaller it should be chopped. Do not chop herbaceous materials too finely.
2-Mix Together: Equal amounts of green plant material and naturally dry plant material. This gives you a carbon to nitrogen ration of 30 to 1. (Green material gives nitrogen, Dry material gives carbon)
(Green material = grass clippings, old flowers, green purnings, weeds, fresh garbage and fruit and vegetable wastes.)
(Dried material = dead leaves, dried grass, straw, prunings, finely shreded carboard or paper bags must be mixed with plant material.)
Make sure that these materials do not mat together by mixing them with other materials.
3-Moisture: The moisture content of a compost pile should be about 50 percent. Too much water makes it a stinky, soggy bog and too little will stop the decomposition process. Either way will slow down the decomposition process. Exact moisture content is hard to determine but a general rule is that it should feel like a wrung out sponge.
4-Heat: Heat is a critical element for quick composting. The microorganisms that decompose waste material function best at about 160 deg F. (71 deg C). 36"x36"x36" is the minimum recommended size of a compost pile to help create and retain the necessary heat. Temperature can be checked using a compost thermometer but is not essential. Using a piece of plastic that covers the top of the pile will help retain heat and moisture, make sure to tuck it in around the edges.
5-Rotation: Rotating and turning the materials in the compost pile increases the speed at which the decomposition takes place by:
-Keeping the temperature down. The microorganisms begin to die at temperatures higher than 160 deg F.
-Introducing fresh oxygen into the mix. The microorganisms die when they are starved for oxygen.
Move the material from the outer edges of the pile to the center. Having more than one bin allows you to turn the material from one bin to the other.
-Turning every day may allow compost to be made in about a month. The longer the time between rotating the longer it will take to compost.
7-Do not add additives: Other additives are not necessary to start the composting process. The plants contain everything they need to decompose.
8-Do not change the pile ingredients: Do not add material once you have started a compost pile. Adding to the pile will extend the composting time.
9-Ammonia smell and nitrogen: If the carbon to nitrogen ration falls below the optimal balance there will be an increase in decomposition of organic (green) material which will produce an ammonia smell and cause your compost to lose valuable nitrogen in the form of ammonia gas. If this is happening to your pile you may introduce sawdust to the part of the pile with the ammonia smell. The carbon rich sawdust will work with the excess nitrogen and slow the decomposition. (and stop the smell)
10-Do not add: Soil, fireplace ashes, manure from animals that eat meat.
11-Good looking and good smelling: The pile color should turn to dark brown as the composting progresses. It should also put off a pleasant smell similar to the smell of a nursery with lots of fresh top soil around. The temperature will drop as the composting is completed. Once little or no heat is being produced then the soil is ready to be used.
Our compost bin plans include several sizes and styles to help you build a homemade compost bin that fits the amount of compost you want to produce and have the plant material and dry material to fill it with. The two primary styles of composters are the wood compost bin and the compost tumbler. Our plans detail how to make several different sizes of each style.
3 bin compost plans: These multiple compartment compost bins allow you to start compost piles at different times so you can always have a pile that is finishing and one that is starting.
2 bin compost plans: By using two compost bins you can move the material from one bin to another every day or two to produce beautiful compost in just a few weeks.
Single bin compost plans: Building your composter from our simple wood compost bin plans will give you a place to keep your yard waste and fresh kitchen garbage or fruits and vegetables that you want to turn into soil.
Compost Tumbler Plans: The compost tumbler allows you to more easily turn your compost pile. With this design you can simply roll the barrel to mix your compost pile. With the ease of rotating the diy compost tumbler you will be much more likely to rotate the mixture every day or two.