Compost heaps work by generating intense heat and biological activity, breaking down all materials you include into a rich, organic substance that works wonderfully as a soil amendment. The ingredients for successful composting are pretty standard: water, air, and green and brown materials that create nitrogen and carbon. These materials include coffee grounds, tea leaves, eggshells, corn cobs, hedge trimmings, lawn clippings, pine needles, straw, weeds and other plant debris.

To speed up the composting process, it’s important to turn the pile often with a rake or shovel and add water whenever it gets dry. It also helps to add some garden soil every now and then, and an occasional sprinkling of lime will help to reduce acidity (which slows down or stops the bacterial composting action).

For even quicker composting, you can create a homemade “accelerant.” This will increase the amount of moisture, carbon and nitrogen in your pile (the organisms that decompose organic matter need carbon for energy and nitrogen to build cell structure).

To create your accelerant, combine the following in a 5-gallon bucket:

  • 1 gallon of warm water
  • ½ cup of household ammonia (nitrogen- rich)
  • 1 can of flat, warm beer (the yeast in the beer will encourage bacterial growth)
  • 1 can of warm, regular cola (the sugar in the cola provides necessary carbon)

Stir the mixture thoroughly and pour it slowly over your compost heap. Follow this up with a few shovels full of garden soil, then turn the pile to distribute the accelerant evenly.

Once your compost turns dark and crumbly, it will be ready to use in your garden!