Using A Compost Activator

If you are using a compost bin and have a compost pile in it, you will probably find that the summer’s high heat accelerates the composting process (providing the pile is humid and it has been turned to allow more air/oxygen to circulate).

On the other hand, perhaps your pile won’t heat up. What can you do? What are compost activators? When and how can compost activators help?

When a compost pile won’t heat up, the problem is almost always one of three things:

1. The pile is too small
(In a previous post, I’ve explained that the pile must be at least 3 ft (1 meter) by 3 ft(1 meter) by 3 ft (1 meter). If enlarging your compost pile is not feasible, perhaps you could use a different composting method as will be explained in later posts)

2. The pile is too dry
(In Compost Moisture,  I address this problem)

3. The pile needs more nitrogen (i.e. more “greens”). Especially in cold weather, a “starter” or “compost activator” is needed to give it more nitrogen.

Compost Activators to the rescue

If your problem is the 3rd one mentioned above, you can use a Compost Activator to remedy the situation.  Choose a compost accelerator from the following suggestions:

- The first type of compost activators is high-nitrogen fertilizers. Garden suppliers sell compost starters or “activators” often composed of high-nitrogen fertilizers which you can add to your compost pile. In some cases, “inoculants” of dehydrated bacteria are also described as compost activators.

A commercial activator based on high-nitrogen fertilizers does heat up the compost quickly; however, it’s not easy controlling the amount of nitrogen added this way and the excess may leak out or escape as ammonia into the air.

High-nitrogen fertilizers may be helpful, but the benefits of adding more bacteria from a package have yet to be proven. All the bacteria you need should already be present in the soil under the compost pile or the food and garden waste you’ve added.

- A second compost activator is to try soaking ordinary garden soil in water for an hour and dousing the heap with the tea-coloured liquid.

- A third compost activator is fresh stable manure. Fresh stable manure is the ideal compost starter, though it may be hard for some of you to find. Adding it to your compost pile would be harder yet to explain to your next-door neighbours.

- A fourth compost activator is to use several effective organic alternatives such as bloodmeal, finished compost, or well-composted manure, or other “green” material.

For example, you can simply rebuild the compost pile with additional grass clippings or other “green” material. (The list of “greens” and “browns” may be found in Compost Pile Ingredients. )

Of all compost activators suggested, the best solution is to give a boost of nitrogen to the bacteria you already have by adding manure or an organic alternative .

SO, even if you have the proper proportion of “greens” to “browns”, adding manure or an organic alternative such as seeweed is a great idea because it will not only speed up the procedure but will also add to the quality of the compost.

My next topic will be The Hot Composting Timetable and Key Points to Remember.

Until then let’s keep on doing what we can to keep our environment cleaner and our soil healthier so that we in turn can remain healthier longer.

Happy Gardening!


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