By: Amy Grant
More and more of us are composting,but if you’re one of those, the time it takes for waste products to turn intogorgeous, usable compost may seem like an eternity. That’s where drunkencomposting comes into play. What is drunken composting? Yes, it has to do withbeer – composting with beer, soda and ammonia to be exact. Read on to learn howto make your own drunken compost accelerator.
Gettinga compost pile hot and combined with the correct ingredients can be a time-consumingtask. Using a homemade compost accelerator speeds up the process, but does fastcomposting work? Drunken compost has nothing to do with becoming intoxicatedbut refers to accelerating the decaying process by introducing beer, soda (orsugar) and ammonia.
Fast composting with beer, soda and ammonia does actuallywork. Compost will be ready in a scant few weeks as opposed to months.
Start with a clean bucket. In the bucket, pour one tall canof any variety of beer. Add to that 8 ounces (250 ml.) of ammonia and either 12ounces (355 ml.) of regular soda (not diet) or 3 tablespoons of sugar (45 ml.)that has been combined with 12 ounces of water.
This can then be poured into a sprayer attached to a hoseand then sprayed onto the compost pile or add 2 gallons of warm water to thehomemade compost accelerator and then pour onto the pile. Mix the compostaccelerator into the pile with a garden fork or shovel.
Provided that you begin with a good ratio of 1:3 of greensto browns (nitrogen to carbon), adding a homemade compost accelerator willrender the compost usable in as soon as 12-14 days.
If you are composting hot or high nitrogen matter, such as chickenmanure, the pile will take a bit longer to break down due to the rich nitrogencontent, but it will still speed up the process. Also, if you are compostingchicken manure, skip the ammonia in the ingredients for your homemade compostaccelerator.
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This is part two of my composting series. Here I discuss how to make a homemade compost accelerator concentrate. This recipe is based one of many videos I saw on Youtube but I tweaked it to be more organic. There are other videos and methods for making your own compost accelerator but this video contains a bit of hilarity, which I like and the formulations do cross over. However, if you prefer the method in this video over my suggested recipe, go ahead and use it. Please keep in mind that if you plan to use the compost you make using the video instructions on your edibles, the other chemicals in the products used will also be in your food.
The natural approach that I prefer uses urea aka pure nitrogen instead of ammonia. For his 20 gallon concentrate recipe, you need about 0.5 ounces of urea aka nitrogen to replace the 8 ounces of ammonia. Note: when used for fertilizing purposes, too much nitrogen will cause burning of plants due to the excess salt that is left behind after the water is absorbed by the plants. I have learned through further research that urine, chicken or bovine manure can be used but that is way too natural for my taste. Not to mention that the odor from the manure drive you out of your garden and strain your relationship with your neighbors. Furthermore, instead of wasting a perfectly good 12 ounce can of beer, I use regular dry yeast. His recipe, depending on the beer, has about 0.09 grams of yeast, which is less than a packet of yeast, that is, if my math is correct. A packet of yeast is usually 7 grams or 1/2 teaspoon. I estimate his recipe requires about one third of 1/4 teaspoon of a packet of yeast. I also estimate that his recipe also uses about 45 grams of sugar depending on the sugar content in both the soda and beer. Instead of soda, I use molasses powder or brown sugar equivalent to 45 grams of sugar. The idea is that the nitrogen breaks down the material with the aid of the yeast which eats the sugar and further aides the decomposition of the composting materials. Please note that you may or may not need 20 gallons because it depends on your pile, I have made this recipe before and stored it in a cool dark place for a week. I had no issue with it after words. However, if you are unsure about storage or are unable to store it, pour the left-over directly into an unplanted section of your garden.
The mixture is incorporated in a lawn sprayer bottle and attached to your hose for use. The other option is to pure the ingredients into a 15 gallon bucket of water and then use a watering can to distribute the mix over the composting materials. Again you can use the bucket method but use a gallon sprayer container to distribute the liquid. Remember to use a fork or a rake to rotate the composting materials as you add the liquid to your pile or compost bin/tub. I sometimes chuck everything in a contractor bag, leave it on the concrete in the driveway or do it straight in my composter and let it bake in the sun for a minimum of 1 month. I like to do this when it’s warm enough to work out side. This is usually around the end of March so that I have something to put into the garden and my pots by May. Please note that the temperature, exposure to air and moisture content are important. Too little liquid, air and not enough heat will results in too little decomposition. Too much liquid and not enough heat and air will result is slimy moldy guck. Please note that further ahead in time the process is done the better especially if the materials are in large pieces and winters are very cold and/or long.
Remember, if you try this out, please let me know the results you get. You can share your results on this blog or on my Facebook page. You are also welcome to share your own gardening tips and advice. Don’t forget to like, thumbs up and share.
There are dozens of "recipes" for preparing compost starters or accelerators. You can purchase commercial products online or make your own inexpensive brewer's yeast accelerator. When you are ready to start a new batch of compost, dissolve one cake or powder packet of brewer's yeast with 1 cup of granulated sugar in 1 gallon of water. Place the mixture in a 5-gallon bucket and seal with a tight-fitting lid. Allow the mixture to "brew" or ferment for five to seven days. Pour the mixture over 50 to 100 pounds of organic waste and turn the material. Turn the compost pile each month while the temperature remains above freezing. Water regularly to keep the pile uniformly moist but not soggy.
All you need to trap slugs, snails and earwigs is a shallow bowl, a couple of drops of dishwashing liquid and a can of stale beer. By scooping a hole in the soil and placing the bowl so the rim is at ground level, then gently mixing the dishwashing liquid and beer before placing it in the bowl, you have an irresistible brew that snails, slugs and earwigs will eagerly crawl into -- and drown in. A recycled glass or plastic jar set in the soil at a 45-degree angle with the rim at ground level and filled with stale beer serves the same purpose for earwigs.
I’ve often read that compost starters and activators are a “vital element” to any compost. To cite the well known composter Stu Campbell:
“trying to make good compost without an activator is like trying to make concrete without cement”.
Most of us are in a hurry to get good compost as soon as possible. In my opinion, using starters is good advice and certainly can’t do any harm. My own solution at the moment is to use a sprinkling of finished compost (or soil) and a few handfuls of blood meal, approximately every 6 inches or so…