Composting is not for folks seeking fast results. In fact, most compost can take up to a year or more before it is ready to use. Sometimes, gardeners want the process to happen a little faster so they can start reaping the benefits of a good compost pile, so they use a compost accelerator.
A compost accelerator can take as little as three weeks to work. The time it takes depends on the accelerator you choose, but accelerators can also have other benefits for your compost, like retaining more nitrogen and improved microbial activity.
Let’s dive deeper into the topic of compost accelerators to understand their features and benefits and help you find the right one for your compost.
What Makes Compost Accelerators Work
When you use a compost accelerator, you are introducing much-needed ingredients to your compost pile, ensuring the process can happen faster. Because the composting process relies on the natural process of decomposition, you may be wondering how an accelerator can work to speed up this natural process without being harmful.
High Nitrogen Content
The short answer to the question of how accelerators speed up a natural process without causing harm is that compost accelerators contain a concentration of necessary ingredients.
One of the main ways that accelerators speed up the composting process is by adding more nitrogen to the pile.
Most composters know that nitrogen will help speed up the composting process because it provides moisture and nutrients that microorganisms need to thrive.
However, the trick to composting is understanding that there is a limit to how many nitrogen-rich materials you can safely add to the pile. You must offset these materials with carbon-rich materials for balance.
So, compost accelerators tend to be high in nitrogen to help provide the microorganisms with nutrients to help them work faster and more efficiently. The nitrogen also increases the overall heat of the compost pile because the well-fed microbes can work faster, raising the temperature in the pile.
The increase in temperature, in turn, increases the decomposition rate in the pile, so the pile becomes compost much faster. But it is important to follow the instruction on the accelerator’s packaging because too much nitrogen in your compost pile can also have detrimental effects.
Too much nitrogen in your compost pile can cause it to overheat. In fact, too much nitrogen all at once can even cause your pile to burn. To prevent this, always monitor the amount of accelerator you add to your compost heap and turn it consistently to ensure that it doesn’t overheat in specific areas.
Some of the best accelerators you can find have active ingredients for composting, like bacteria and fungi, that also help jumpstart the process. These organisms are vital for a quick start to the decomposition process because they can reproduce quickly and break the compost down faster.
Nutrients that support bacterial growth are also important ingredients that really speed up the decomposition process. Healthy microbes can bring your compost pile closer to decomposing in the shortest time possible. Most microorganisms gain nutrients from nitrogen sources, which is why most accelerators tend to be rich in nitrogen.
Accelerators may also use calcium and magnesium to ensure that the nitrogen is retained in the compost rather than evaporating in a process called ammonia volatilization.
Benefits of Using a Compost Accelerator
Sometimes known as compost starters, accelerators can hasten the pace at which your compost pile decomposes. It is worth noting that the quickened process is not the only benefit of using a compost accelerator.
Most compost accelerators work by introducing nitrogen and other important chemicals to your pile. Not only are these nutrients helpful in speeding up the composting process, but they also increase the overall quality of your pile. Compost is beneficial because of the nutrients that it provides to your soil. So, accelerators give it more of those nutrients.
Another benefit of compost accelerators is that they tend to be all-natural. Of course, be careful what you buy, as every brand may not provide an all-natural accelerator, but most companies pride themselves on natural, organic ingredients.
Finding an accelerator with natural ingredients means that the heap remains made of only organic materials, which helps it remain healthy. The all-natural ingredients also prevent any potential risk for nearby flowers or animals that come snooping. So, you don’t have to worry about harming pets or plants when using an accelerator.
How To Find the Right Compost Accelerator
One of the most important parts of accelerating the decomposition process is to use nitrogen-heavy materials. This can come in many forms, but the balance of carbon and nitrogen is vital for ensuring the health and completion of your compost heap.
Too much nitrogen can slow down the process. So, add more nitrogen to speed it up but not too much.
Finding the right compost accelerator will depend on what you are looking for and available. Some people like to spend a little extra for something already made to help speed up the process, while others prefer to use resources they already have at home.
Let’s take a look at some different options to help you choose the right one for you.
Tips to Find the Best Commercial Compost Accelerator
While you have plenty of options to choose from, purchasing a compost accelerator can help you get the job done without much research or effort.
One thing to focus on is whether it contains organic ingredients to you are not adding harsh chemicals to your compost pile.
Another tip for finding the right accelerator is to look for an option with plenty of nitrogen and active bacterial ingredients, as discussed above. Other components can help your pile decompose faster, but these are the most important ingredients to ensure that your compost is finished quickly.
DIY Compost Accelerators
There are some compost accelerators that we have at home. While buying some commercial options can be easy, there are alternative ways to get your compost pile working faster. Let’s talk about some compost accelerators you may already have at home.
One of the fastest ways to accelerate the composting process is adding something that is high in nitrogen. Fresh manure is one of the simplest materials to get a good source of nitrogen. While this may not be an option for everyone, it is certainly a bountiful supply for people who live on or near farms. So take advantage of this resource for a faster-composting process.
Fresh Cut Grass
Another way to boost the speed of decomposition for your compost pile is to add freshly cut grass. This great nitrogen source allows the pile to heat faster and more consistently. So, add it to your compost but make sure you mix the pile to distribute the heat that it will cause evenly.
It is important to ensure that the grass you add to your pile is freshly cut. This is because the nitrogen content of the grass will change as it ages. Freshly cut grass is still green and high in nitrogen. If you let the grass sit for too long before adding it to your compost pile, it can dry out and become a carbon source instead. So, make sure you use freshly cut grass for this purpose.
Check out my other article about nitrogen’s importance – Does Nitrogen Speed Up Composting – if you want to know more about how nitrogen can help accelerate the decomposition process. This article also features some helpful examples of materials that are a great nitrogen source to help you better balance your compost heap.
While the composting process can take a long time to complete, a compost accelerator can help speed up the process. Whether you use something sold by a manufacturer or a resource you have at home, remember that nitrogen is the key ingredient you need.
So, we recommend trying different accelerators to find the one that works best for you, but don’t add too much. Remember that too much nitrogen can have the opposite effect and slow down the process.