How to Make Compost FAST, EASY & CHEAP
by Damien Andrews
Until relatively recently the process of making compost was left alone by the public-at-large. The consensus was that it was a messy, smelly, slow process requiring lots of space and time. Gradually the public is starting to see that making compost is anything but what they thought it was. Today, largely due to growing interest and purchasing, more and more people in all environs have started making compost for their own use.
MAKING COMPOST – SMALL AMOUNTS
If you live in an apartment and you are interested in making compost, there are quite a few composters available that should fit your needs nicely. You'll have to find the right size composter for your specific application. Remember when you're buying the composter and the additive to expedite the breakdown of the materials that you are not only saving the electricity needed to run your garbage disposer and saving your local sewer system, you are also making extremely high quality fertilizer for all of your indoor plants and herbs.
MAKING COMPOST – MEDIUM AMOUNTS
If you have a house and yard – or an apartment with a useable yard, then you can have a much larger composter. Again, the choices are many, and so are the varieties and styles. Look for a composter that makes stirring/mixing the compost easy. Many composter models are now offered on legs or stands that allow you to simply park your wheelbarrow underneath, open a trap door and fill the wheelbarrow with your freshly made fertilizer. If you can, have two outdoor composters: one for kitchen waste and one for outdoor waste such as grass clippings, leaves, etc. Outdoor waste will take longer to compost than kitchen waste will. Using an additive in your outdoor composter will expedite the process of making compost. Look for the varieties that contain microorganisms. (If you want to make compost even faster, read the following section.)
MAKING COMPOST – LARGE AMOUNTS
While many of the commercially available additives will turn your scraps into compost quite effectively, they all take a back seat to nature's answer to breaking down matter: earthworms. Earthworms ingest vegetation and excrete a fantastic fertilizer called worm castings. And they do it fast. In fact, it's not unusual for five pounds of good earthworms to break down five pounds of kitchen waste in a mere 24-hours. Knowing this makes the concept of making compost much easier to manage and more productive.
Having earthworms help you make compost is easy enough. Many places sell earthworms and everything needed to start raising them. They take up little space, require minimal attention and they reproduce quickly. Deal with a reputable company – and be sure it's a company that knows about earthworms and will share their information. Some companies simply sell the items and aren't really able to tell you the 'secrets' of maximum success.
It's also inexpensive to start raising earthworms for making compost. At this writing, Uncle Jim's Worm Farm is offering everything needed, including 500 red wrigglers, for a paltry $35.95. If you're a gardener, or have your own greenhouse and houseplants, you know how dreadfully cheap this is when compared to purchasing fertilizers. And this is NOT an expense you'll have to endure repeatedly – it's a one time thing. Once you get your earthworms started making compost, assuming you have adequate waste for them, the most you'd ever need is some additional ' earthworm bedding,' which is very, very cheap.
If you do have lots of high quality vegetation for making compost, then your earthworms will make a like amount of compost very quickly, to be sure. But what about when you have too many earthworms in your composter(s)? That's a really simple one: move them out of the composter and into the soil. They are great for gardens and greenhouses, and do wonders for trees and shrubs as well. They aerate the soil naturally, and leave behind their nutrient-rich castings for the benefit of the growing vegetation. Your earthworms will never stop making compost – and more earthworms that will also make compost. Mother Nature is truly hard to beat…
Making compost for your own use is not just great for the environment and your pocketbook, it's also a very cheap way of having an organic garden or greenhouse. Your grown vegetables will taste better, and you won't be introducing chemicals into the soil that will ultimately hurt it.
The final advantage of making compost with earthworms is that using worm castings as your organic fertilizer won't burn your plants and vegetables. The earthworm castings are great for everything from starting seeds to preparing for and transplanting things. The only other thing I know of that's as good for an organic garden is bat droppings – bat guano. Bat guano is great stuff, but it's also quite pricey.