How Long Does Compost Take + 5 Ways You Can Speed It Up

How Long Does Compost Take + 5 Ways You Can Speed It Up

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Because of the complexity of making compost, there's no easy way to answer the question of how long it will take to create compost. Your pre-compost heap is different from anyone else's, which can be the primary problem. The natural process of a compost pile has many facets, offering a variety of places for things to go wrong along the journey to finished compost.

You can produce reliable estimates and results if you compost correctly and purposefully. However, you need to know how to make the best usable compost to get the best estimates. With this article, we hope to give you an idea of how long it might take you to create compost, and what you can do to quicken that process.

  • How long does it take to make compost at home?
  • 8 factors that affect how long it takes for compost to be ready
  • How long does compost take to break down?
  • Top 5 tips to speed up the composting process
  • How long does it take for things to compost?
  • How to tell when the compost is ready to use?

Although how long it takes for compost to break down is variable, we can start by giving you some rough estimates.

How Long Does It Take to Make Compost?

Compost can take anywhere between 24 hours to a year or more to make, depending on the method you opt. Electric composters are the fastest way to make compost, and can break down your food waste in 24 hours or less. Other indoor composting methods typically take a lot longer than outdoor methods to create compost. 

Based on the method you choose, here are some rough timelines for composting:

  • Electric countertop composter: The fastest method, creating usable dirt in 16 - 20 hours.
  • Indoor composting: The longest method, ranging from 2 - 12+ months.
  • Outdoor composting: This method produces usable compost anywhere from one month to a year or more.

We’ll go into more detail about these ideas later on, and you’ll better understand what we mean.

8 Factors that Affect How Long It Takes for Compost to be Ready 

When you're dealing with compost, there are a number of different factors that will ultimately influence the speed of decomposition. Let's look deeper into what will affect how quickly - or slowly - the finished compost can take to make.

1. How hot or cold it is

When dealing with an outdoor compost bin or compost pile, seasonal conditions will significantly impact how long it takes for organic materials to break down. The warmer the environment, the more efficiently the microorganisms responsible for composting will work. This is why many people who have their own compost bin or compost pile will cover them during the winter months - there's just not a lot going on, and they want to retain as much heat as possible.

2. The composition of green versus brown material

Optimal pre-compost outcomes come from a mix of wet "green" materials and dry "brown" additions. Green materials produce nitrogen as they break down, and browns produce carbon. Both of these elements are essential for the decomposition process, and the right mix will ensure the process occurs efficiently.

3. The size and shape of material in your compost

Regardless of the precise method used to compost, breaking down organic material beforehand will always speed up the process. Smaller bits of organic material decompose faster than larger ones. After all, the organisms responsible for the bulk of composting's heavy lifting are microscopic! Even vermicomposting, which utilizes worms to aid the process, will benefit from smaller materials.

4. The overall volume of your compost pile

When composting, you'll want to maintain an appropriate volume. Compost that is too tightly packed cannot properly aerate, which means it will become waterlogged and smelly. It will also lack oxygen which is another crucial element to getting usable compost in a shorter time frame. On the flip side, pre-compost that is too loose will aerate excessively, resulting in loose, dry, and often low-value material, and that's not the kind of good pre-compost we're looking for.

5. The size of your compost pile

Because temperature plays a big role in how quickly organic waste breaks down, the total size of your compost pile will also make a difference. Having a larger pile means that the temperature of the pre-compost will be able to build up higher and faster than a smaller pile. So, if you’re composting outside, one big bin will finish faster than multiple smaller piles.

6. How moist the compost is

Achieving an ideal level of moisture is also an important factor in how quickly your pre-compost will finish. Some moisture in the pile will allow oxygen to flow through the waste more efficiently, making it easier for helpful microorganisms to break down the organic matter. However, if there’s too much moisture in your compost bin, the whole thing will turn into a soupy mess, which isn’t what anyone’s looking for. Your compost pile should feel like a wrung-out sponge at all times.

7. How easily digestible the organic matter is

When we’re composting, we rely on microscopic organisms (and sometimes bugs) to digest and break down waste for us. Well, some organic matter is just easier to digest, and that organic waste will be quicker to compost. For example, branches and leaves are high in lignin, making them more difficult to digest and slower to compost than materials like grass clippings or shredded paper.

8. Technology you’re using to help with the process

Technology can also impact how long it takes for pre-compost to break down. This technology can range from simple garden tools to help with the aeration process, all the way to electronic composters that essentially do all the work for you!

How long does compost take to break down?

How long it takes pre-compost to become soil is specific to each compost pile. The speed composting takes depends on many factors, such as the types of materials you use, the balance between brown materials and green materials, the moisture content within your compost pile, and the retaining heat.

The fastest way to compost food waste is with an electric composter, such as Karfo, which can get the job done in less than a day. Without Karfo, though, it’s going to take much longer. In ideal conditions where you do everything right, it will take at least a month to go from pre-compost to soil. Of course, getting everything right, especially your first time around, isn’t exactly easy. More likely, it’s going to take anywhere from a few months to a year or more to make compost soil.

For the quickest decomposition rate, you should strive to achieve as many ideal composting conditions as possible.

Top 5 tips to speed up the composting process

If you don’t want to wait a year or more to make compost at home, there are steps you can take and products you can buy to speed up the process. Here are the five best ways to quickly acquire finished compost:

1. Try Karfo - an automatic kitchen waste composter

Composting is fastest when you have technology helping, such as Karfo. After the one-button-press startup, you only need to sit back and wait for the alert! For the highest quality natural fertilizer, you only need to wait up to 20 hours for the finished result. There's no need to get your hands dirty, probe around with a thermometer, or study texture. You're guaranteed to find nutrient-rich dirt that can be immediately added to any soil.

Pro tip: An electric composter is great for quick and mess-free composting! Karfo turns your organic trash into rich, nutrient-packed dirt than be added to your houseplants or a home garden.

2. Turn your compost

On its own, turning compost is an essential maintenance task. While this is not a daily thing, traditional compost piles and bins are turned regularly, typically once or twice per week. This action allows for the compost to breathe.

Turning the compost without applying heat offers a decently fast turnaround of roughly 3 months and is called cold composting. However, if you want to juice the process even further, then consider hot turning. This approach combines the process of turning with the beneficial results of hot composting.

3. Get help from some critters

Vermicomposting is the process of enlisting some worms to help you compost. While all outdoor composting will involve vermicomposting, most dedicated vermicomposters will opt to create a protected indoor or outdoor bin.

Worms aren’t your only choice of bug - black soldier flies are emerging among vermicomposting enthusiasts. The larvae of the black soldier fly are voracious; immediately after hatching, these grubs begin munching! With their help, you can reliably produce finished compost in approximately three weeks.

Pro tip: Even with how quick these critters can break down your pre-compost, you’ll want to very gently turn it every now and then. This will ensure it isn’t getting too damp.

4. Include compost activators

Composting can be difficult and slow to start, especially if it doesn't contain the best mix of green and brown waste. A quick and easy way to get around this is by adding compost activators to your mix.

Also known as compost accelerators, they quicken the decomposition process by increasing the nitrogen content of the compost pile. Compost activators are relatively cheap, and easy to find both online and in stores, making them one of the easiest ways to improve the speed of your compost.

Pro tip: Chicken manure acts wonderfully as a compost activator, and is generally cheaper per pound than products advertised specifically as compost activators or accelerators.

5. Shred what you’re composting

How long it takes to create compost is also dependent on how large the individual food scraps and organic waste are. Smaller materials break down faster than larger materials. Cutting up your food waste before throwing it in the compost bin will help speed up the process.

Shredding is especially important when it comes to brown material. Much of the time, this is going to be dead plants and wood from the yard, which can come in some pretty large pieces. Shredding up the brown material will seriously make a difference in the compost pile.

Pro tip: Don’t want to buy a dedicated compost shredder? You can also go over most brown materials with a lawnmower to cut down the size. Using the lawnmower will also provide an easy source of brown materials through grass clippings!


You may also want to know
Beginner's Guide to Composting
How Does Karfo Compost So Fast?
Types of Composting

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