The keys for fast composting are chopping the material as small as possible, keeping the pile damp but not wet at all times, a proper ratio of browns to greens, and daily turning. As long as those parts are all in place, you 'll get great compost as quickly as possible. If any of them are wrong, it slows the process.
Size can also play a part in heating up of a pile. I have one of those storebought black bin composters, as well as a large homemade bin. The storebought bin still gets pretty darn warm and works pretty well, but isn't capable of getting as hot as my homemade one due to lack of volume.
Just the standard woodpallets and boards in a cube set-up. I threw some landscape fabric I pulled out of the yard on them to help keep materials in and still allow airflow. Nothing fancy, but it's been working pretty well for me. I keep an old tarp over the top right now to keep moisture in, otherwise the top several inches dries out quickly in the summer heat.
Not right now, no. I'm planning on making some adjustments on it this Fall but right now I've been using the heat and moisture from it to kill/rot some laurel stumps. It's worked well elsewhere, but my present location is rather awkward, on a steep hill. I have one side more open than the other 3, so my turning process right now is to scoop about half the material into trash cans and then turn the center to the outside.
That is one huge plus of the storebought one: it may be small, but it takes less than 10 minutes to turn everything.
It varies on the time of year: ground up ramial branches with leaves attached from aforementioned laurels, weeds and grass clippings, fallen maple leaves in Fall/Winter. Also, from late Fall until Spring lots of kelp, and in summer other types of seaweed. Sometimes I grab young podless Scotch broom at the beach as well as that's the only place I can be sure it hasn't been sprayed (lots of work goes into hand removing it by volunteer groups, but of course it always comes back.)
Oh... I mostly have tree leaves but haven't tried to compost yet, I've been making do with comfrey tea from about 30 plants I started from 2 crowns. Ha! I got stung today disturbing a bees nest while picking comfrey leaves. The wad of leaves made a pretty good fan to beat them off as I ran down the road, lol.
Ha. I just posted a long explanation of my system, inappropriately at the end of a thread about tilling...I think others have given you all the tips bout SPEED. The question of enough is maybe another matter--you need more materials to have more total compost. One possibility is leaves. I compost these separately to make leaf mold; I think it was Elliot Coleman who said it should be done separately from other compost but now I can't find the reference. it takes two years if whole, one if they're chopped. I used to use a lawnmower for this, now a borrowed leaf chopper. I also have piles of dead branches and such in the woods, as well as ordinary compost piles by each garden. They vary in how long they take. The two bins (made of concrete blocks) above my main garden cycle through two or three piles a year; they get a lot of weeds, and spent haymulch, as well as kitchen scraps and the proceeds from cleaning out my chicken coop. I only turn them two or three times, maybe once a month. All my piles get pee dumped on them, in a sequence. So the fastest pile is the one above my main garden and it might be ready in two months at the very least. But I'm saying...if you have enough stuff going through your piles, it doesn't matter if it takes longer, because the time passes all by itself, and then you're glad to have the compost, Like if you spot one of those tree trucks on a local road, and ask the driver if they need a place to dump wood chips. Usually they're happy to bring you a load. Even with pee dumping, this stuff will take a few years to be ready. But--next thing you know, those years have passed, and you thank your younger self for scoring you this resource. So, my overall point is that while you said your question is how to make compost FASTER, your real question is how to have more of it. If you have enough material moving through your composting system, it soon won't matter if it takes longer to be finished. Although right now you might need to resort to buying compost, a dubious proposition as there are no regulations on what can go in it. But if you gotta, you gotta. Just make sure you have enough compost piles going that you won't have to do it next year.
My piles are huge because I have a neighbor with horses and can have as much horse manure as wanted, Piles will measure 12 feet in diameter and about 6 feet high. They are built under trees so not to dry out too fast. Have plenty of grass, oak leaves (mowed over) garden waste chopped. Piles (about 3) get about 150 degrees even in snow for about 2 weeks then slowly go to about 100 degrees then it is turned. Try to turn it enough so to burn all the weed seeds. In the spring it is ground with a Kemp chipper/grinder into a fine compost that smells woodsy. If I am ambitious and have the time seaweed will be added. Don't get no better that! Oh forgot to mention that lots of brush and rotten logs are chipped up and added.
I have repeatedly tried to compost up here in the frigid White Mountains of NH, but have had no success. I don't have any way to "chop" the ingredients as mentioned above. I even have the gadget to turn the compost pile. part of the problem is not having enough browns as we live in a mostly evergreen forest. I've gone as far as gathering leaves from family members' lawns. Someone from this area said that the only way to get it to compost is to add rid-x septic activator. Keep in mind that it is winter 7 months of the year. the first snow is usually in November and the snow usually doesn't fully go away until mid-May Last frost is Memorial day, there is no outdoor planting until May 15. any other advice from people in colder zones?
I'm in the White Mountains of AZ at nearly 7K feet. The first two years not much was happening... This year I added fishing worms, and as many leaves as I could find. I had hundreds of worms born into a nice rich evironment. They love the leaves. It's natures manure. And, horse manure is magic, too.
~ Permaculture is enriching...Farming... is just scratching the surface ~
Here's my "ghetto" setup. Fencing around a couple of compost piles. The 3 foot tall one on the left has worked well, the cheapo fencing on the right...not so much. But the bacteria still work. (I hope the picture comes through, one of my first posts.)
You may note a big black pipe sticking out at the bottom. It's black drainage pipe with a bunch of slits in it and I looped it into the bottom before filling it. The theory is that it lets air in from the bottom without me having to build a nicer structured platform because I'm...lazy.
It's about 6 feet in diameter. In Denver, the winters get cold and I'm a geek so I figure the middle has a chance to get warm if I surround it by a lot of insulation. My math tells me that if I double the linear dimension, the surface area goes up 4x but the volume goes up 8x. The surface area is what radiates away the heat and evaporates the water, while the volume determines how much heat it makes. I've had the same experience with the rolly black plastic composters, that they freeze all winter and just don't have the volume to heat up most of the year. (They are on the West side of the house and get nice and warm in the summer.)
I also find the plastic drums tend to go anaerobic and smell funny (strong, fecal odor) if I'm not VERY careful to put "browns" in. Amusing that one of my Browns is shredded paper from my office which is in no way brown.
One of my favorite "greens" is coffee grounds from the local Starbucks. You may see the three silver bags stacked up on the left compost bin. More irony: my green is brown!
The theory is that I would move the compost from the left to the right bin (or vice versa) but with illnesses, surgeries, family tragedies it's fortunate I get anything done at all and the pits just keep on eating the kitchen scraps, leaves, coffee grounds, etc.
So I can't say I'm "speeding it up." My compost tea goes right on into the ground and I never see it. I don't turn it nearly often enough. But when I get around to it next spring there will be lots of brown gold in there and I haven't had to do much other than trudge out in the snow and throw the kitchen compost on the pile.
Not looking good. I think this might be the end. Wait! Is that a tiny ad?
The Permaculture Playing Cards are a great gift for a gardener