More people than ever before are taking up composting, and that’s a good thing! Keeping things out of landfills and allowing nature’s normal processes to take place instead is better for the environment and gives you some valuable soil material you can use for gardening or farming.
However, many folks who try composting for the first time find that their compost piles don’t progress fast enough. In some cases, their composting efforts may not work well at all!
If that sounds like your situation, don’t worry; you might need a compost starter. Not sure what a compost starter is or how to make one? This guide will answer both questions and more.
What is a Compost Starter?
A compost starter is a unique mix of ingredients you combine with organic matter in a compost bin. As its name suggests, a compost starter helps accelerate the composting process, generally taking some time due to natural decomposition rates.
At its core, the decomposition process requires four main components:
- Green materials, which are moist, soft, and rot faster. They tend to be lower in carbon but high in nitrogen
- Brown matter, which tends to be dry and woody and slower to rot. This matter tends to be high in carbon and low in nitrogen
If you can balance these four components correctly, you can accelerate microbial activity and ensure decomposition.
Why Do You Need a Compost Starter?
But if decomposition happens naturally, why do you need a compost starter in the first place? Because it’s often challenging to balance brown matter and green materials so that they are at the ideal mix for decomposition to occur.
In many cases, you might have too much of one or too little of another, which can slow down the rotting process. Nitrogen-rich green materials provide the food for bacteria to begin and continue the composting process.
A compost starter can provide this food, as well as activators that are rich in nitrogen, which can kickstart bacterial processes. Furthermore, a compost starter can add microbial diversity to a compost pile. This process is called inoculation.
Bottom line: achieving the perfect balance of brown matter and green materials is tricky. A compost starter can make it much easier and provide activators to jumpstart the composting process.
If you want composting to begin ASAP so you can use the materials for soil or other purposes, a compost starter is a no-brainer.
Compost starters come in a few different types, including:
- Artificial activators, which include nitrogen-rich ingredients and which help to accelerate bacterial activity
- Compost inoculates, which are primarily packed with beneficial bacteria for your compost pile
- Natural compost starters, which include natural materials like manure or seaweed extract to kickstart the composting process
How to Make Your Own Compost Starter
You can also make your own compost starter from scratch, which might be advantageous if you want to do everything yourself and make sure you control what you put in your garden.
To make a DIY compost starter, you need the following materials:
- A small bottle of beer
- Between 1-2 gallons of water
- Half a cup of ammonia
- One can of sugary sod – just make sure it’s not a diet soda
Mix all of the above ingredients together in a clean bucket, then use a watering can to wet your composting materials with the mixture. Here’s how it works:
- The beer in the mixture has yeast, which is fungi. The fungi breaks down tough brown materials like cornstalks and branches into softer stuff for the bacteria to digest
- The ammonia is high in nitrogen, providing fuel for the bacteria
- The soda has high sugar content, which is also great for helping bacteria get off to an excellent start
- The water is just a medium to spread all the composting ingredients around
As you can see, this DIY composting recipe is straightforward to make at home. Done right, you could ensure every compost pile you make in the future starts quickly with minimal effort.
Top 5 Compost Starters to Buy
Alternatively, you can purchase a compost starter online with excellent reviews. Some of the best compost starters to buy include:
- Convino Compost Accelerator – This excellent choice works in compost bags and any other type of composting system. In addition to its compost kickstarting ingredients, it also includes deodorizers that can help keep your kitchen or outdoor composting area smelling fresh and natural instead of rancid
- Green Pig Compost Accelerator – This compost accelerator comes in disposable, dissolvable packets and can help convert yard waste into fertile hummus in about 30 days. Each dissolvable tablet that comes with the purchase can treat up to 9 ft.³ of compost, making this an excellent starter in terms of pure efficiency
- Dr. Earth Pure & Natural Compost Starter – This premium compost accelerator can create pure hummus and uses 100% natural and organic ingredients, including alfalfa meal, seaweed extract, and beneficial microbes. It’s also pet safe, making it great if you have a dog that likes to investigate the compost pile from time to time
- Jobe’s Organics Compost Starter – This organic compost starter is affordable, effective, and packed with healthy and organic ingredients for your compost pile. It’s also very fast-acting, able to provide results in about 2 to 3 weeks rather than 60 to 90 days like many other compost accelerator products
- Espoma Organic Traditions Compost Starter- This organic compost starter consists almost entirely of organic molecules, making it great for gardeners who want to inoculate their compost piles more than anything else. 1 cup of the material will provide composting acceleration for about 16 ft.² of compost material
Ultimately, a compost starter may not be essential for you to kickstart your garden or get rid of biological waste safely. However, a compost starter can accelerate the process and make composting much more convenient for your home and garden.
Consider making your own compost starter or choosing one of the compost starters above today, and don’t forget to check out our other eco-friendly and gardening guides!