Composting and Composting Timeframe

Compost is organic matter that has been decomposed in a process called composting. This process recycles various organic materials otherwise regarded as waste products and produces a soil conditioner (the compost).

Compost is rich in nutrients. It is used, for example, in gardens, landscaping, horticulture, urban agriculture and organic farming. The compost itself is beneficial for the land in many ways, including as a soil conditioner, a fertiliser, addition of vital humus or humic (organic) acids, and as a natural pesticide for soil.

In ecosystems, compost is useful for erosion control, land and stream reclamation, wetland construction, and as landfill cover.

At the simplest level, the process of composting requires making a heap of wet organic matter (also called green waste), such as leaves, grass, and food scraps, and waiting for the materials to break down into humus after a period of months. However, composting can also take place as a multi-step, closely monitored process with measured inputs of water, air, and carbon- and nitrogen-rich materials.

The decomposition process is aided by shredding the plant matter, adding water and ensuring proper aeration by regularly turning the mixture when open piles or "windrows" are used. Fungi, earthworms and other detritivores, such as earthworms, further break up the material. Bacteria requiring oxygen to function (aerobic bacteria) and fungi manage the chemical process by converting the inputs into heat, carbon dioxide, and ammonium.

Everyone knows that composting your fruit and vegetable scraps and other biological material is much better than sending those scraps to the city landfill, where they would turn into methane gas. Instead, they're recycled as "food" for your garden. One thing people usually don't consider when starting a compost pile is how long it will actually take to turn into ripe, usable compost.

Here is a simple guide to the composting timetable, depending on which method you use.


Hot Turn: 21 Days

Hot turn piles are the most labour intensive with highly demanding basic requirements, but they produce finished compost much faster than other methods. Your compost pile must measure at least 1 metre x 1 metre and have the proper proportions of carbon to nitrogen (brown stuff to green stuff), which should be about 30:1.

Break or chop whatever material you add to your pile into 10-20 mm pieces. Let sit for a couple of days. Then rotate every day for a week and finally, rotate every other day for another 12 days. This way, you can have finished compost in just 3 weeks.

Tips for Building A Hot Compost Pile:

  1. Use equal amounts of "greens" and "browns."
  2. Mix together a variety of ingredients.
  3. Shred or chop all ingredients, if possible.
  4. Build the pile large enough to retain heat.
  5. Turn or aerate the heap regularly to let in the air.
  6. Keep the pile as moist as a damp sponge.


Slow No Turn: 3-12 Months

The easiest way to compost is to set up a pile in your garden or backyard where you can dump food scraps, leaves, and garden clippings, then simply let them decompose naturally. The amount of time this takes will fluctuate depending on factors like temperature, moisture, and pile composition.

When the weather is hot and the pile is moist with a 20:1-30:1 ratio of carbon to nitrogen, a three-month decomposition is possible. But outside those parameters, it may take up to a year.

Also, a family of five tends to produce much more compost material than a person living alone. The single person's pile will take longer simply because it needs to build up a critical mass. Either way, the bottom, or oldest part, of the pile will be ready first.


Source: Wikipedia and