What Is A Compost Starter? ( Its Benefits, Types, and How-Tos)

go-compost-what is compost starter - A heap of compost mixed with compost starter

The Essentiality Of A Compost Starter

A Compost starter is an Additive or catalyst combined with the organic materials in your composting bin to naturally help the start-up decomposition process. Ordinarily, the materials in your compost should start decomposing after a few weeks. Yet this is not always the case. You might discover that the composting process hasn’t started yet. The next option is to apply a catalyst that could speed up the process. These catalysts have proven to be effective over the years. They do not only help start up the composting process. They also help to speed up the decomposition. There are certain times when materials will refuse to start decaying, even after a balance of brown organic materials and green organic materials is put in the pile in the appropriate ratio. 

You should also note that decomposition is a natural process that needs to occur before your compost forms. Compost occurs due to microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, worms, and other tiny insects. This is to ensure that the best conditions required for the activities of microbes are met. Composting occurs provided that they have a conducive environment for their actions. Compost will quickly break down.

How To Balance The Greens And The Browns In The Compost Starter Process

When these conditions don’t meet, it leads to the need for a compost starter. Most of these compost starters are rich in nitrogen. Also, adding them to your compost pile is an effective way of providing the bacteria with enough nutrients and, at the same time restoring balance to your stack. It is common for compost operators and gardeners to incorporate other microbes into a pile after mixing in a compost starter. Incorporating bacteria in this way is called ‘Inoculation.’

Why the need for a compost starter? If the right balance of greens and browns is achieved in a pile, then a compost starter isn’t necessary, right? However, if you cannot create a proper mix of organic matter, moisture, and air, you can add a starter. Compost starter speeds up the composting process to give you healthy compost within a few weeks. It also helps to encourage plant growth and protect plants from disease pathogens.

Go-Compost-A sample of composted soil In The Shovel

The Two Types Of Compost Starters


Compost inoculation is simply the process of adding bacteria to multiply the microbial population in your compost bin. Some gardeners might not want to employ inoculants because they feel that microbes are already present in the compost pile. However, the addition of inoculants or inoculum is an excellent way of quickly multiplying the organisms already present in a heap.

go-compost-completed compost starter in red cups ready for use

The addition of inoculants has proven to be an effective way to heat the temperature in a pile and reduce the lengthy period it takes to compost.

Compost inoculation is simply the process of adding bacteria to multiply the microbial population in your compost bin.

Natural compost starter

  • Many natural substances are high in nitrogen and function as food for microbes. Natural starters are readily available such as suitable green plants, e.g., grass clippings, clover, etc.
  • Coffee grounds are also a rich source of nitrogen for the pile. Manure is a starter that is cheap and available. Manure from animals like cows, chicken, or pigs may be fresh or dry. Still, it is advisable to use dry manure because fresh manure can quickly burn plant roots and leaves.
  • The composter can add the Human urine to help speed up decomposition. Urine contains ammonia and nitrogen, which is beneficial to microbes.
  • Bone meal and blood meal are good sources of nitrogen for your pile. Blood meal particularly has a very high nitrogen content. Once applied dry, they are easy to handle and do not give off any smell.

What should I use as my organic fertilization?

You can start the compost pile with balanced amounts of both wet and dry matter. As a common practice, the ratio of dry organic materials should be higher than that of damp organic matter. This is to prevent the pile from being too moist. If the contents are too watery, it may likely smell. And when it does start to smell, it requires dried matter, such as dried leaves. If it is too dried and compost doesn’t commence, this means that there should be more green material.

As you add your starter, the Gardener or composter should spread ordinary garden soil between layers of your pile. Healthy garden soil has its way of helping to start up the composting process. It is a very effective starter.

How do you add a compost starter with organic matter?

The compost starter should be directly into the pile after the organic matter is ready, and it should be moist. It can be added with finished compost or garden soil. Then, put it into the compost pile where the organic waste matter is too damp. Once achieved, the composter should cover the heap immediately with a layer of soil.

Can you make your compost starter organically?

Some compost operators make their starters as a catalyst for the compost. Ingredients used for the compost starter include water, alcohol, ammonia, and drink with sugary content, such as soda. The Gardner should mix all the ingredients; the composting material should be moist a bit before application.  Ammonia is very high in nitrogen which the microorganisms love for their activities. Soda has very high sugar content. Sugar provides a good source of food for beneficial bacteria.

Go-Compost-Portioning Compost Starter for use with compost shovel

Benefits Of Organic Starter

  • A compost starter speeds up the decomposition process of organic matter.

Regular compost piles prepared without compost starters can take up to six months to one year to produce mature compost. Compost starter quickens the process by supplying adequate nutrients to microbes.

  • The quality of compost has improved with the addition of starters.

Compost starter helps break down materials into smaller and more refined textures while conserving the nutrients for plant growth.

  • Compost starter is purely natural.

Natural ingredients only are for making compost starters. Therefore, it will only produce healthy organic compost that can contribute to the growth of plants.

  • It helps to kill any harmful pathogens present.

A Compost starter can help increase the warmth of piles to ensure that any harmful organisms are destroyed.

What Happens When You Add A Compost Starter?

Several bacteria and other living microbes are in a compost starter to speed up decomposition; they contain nutrients that promote bacterial growth. The microbial activity helps to heat the compost pile and helps in breaking down organic matter quickly. A starter can be mixed into your compost when the process does not start on time.

A compost starter doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult to get. You can choose options depending on your choice. You could decide to go for inoculants, manure, or fresh garden soil. Microbial inoculants have proven to be effective due to increased microbial activity. Also, the presence of enzymes helps to break down materials.

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