What Is Good For Using As A Compost Activator? How to Choose The Best One For Your Garden | Ultimate Guide”

Composting is an excellent way to reduce waste and create nutrient-rich soil for your garden. However, sometimes the composting process can be slow or inefficient. That’s where compost activators come in.

Compost activators are substances that speed up the decomposition process, helping your compost pile break down organic materials faster. In this article, we will explore the different types of compost activators and discuss what works best for achieving optimal results.

Types of Compost Activators

Nitrogen-based Activators

Nitrogen is an essential element for the growth of microorganisms responsible for breaking down organic matter in compost. Adding nitrogen-based activators can provide a boost to the microbial activity in your compost pile. Here are some common nitrogen-rich materials that can serve as effective activators:

  1. Animal Manure: Manure from herbivores such as cows, horses, or chickens is rich in nitrogen and other nutrients. It is readily available and helps increase the temperature in the compost pile, promoting faster decomposition.
  2. Green Plant Material: Fresh grass clippings, kitchen scraps (like vegetable peels), and garden trimmings are excellent sources of nitrogen. These materials should be chopped into small pieces and mixed into the compost pile.
  3. Coffee Grounds: Used coffee grounds are an easily accessible source of nitrogen. They also help to attract earthworms, which further aid in the decomposition process.

Carbon-based Activators

Carbon is the energy source for microorganisms, and adding carbon-based activators helps create a balanced carbon-to-nitrogen ratio in the compost pile. Here are some examples of carbon-rich materials that can act as activators:

  1. Brown Plant Material: Dried leaves, straw, and hay are rich in carbon. They provide structure to the compost pile, ensuring good airflow and moisture retention.
  2. Newspaper and Cardboard: Shredded newspaper or cardboard can be used as a carbon source. Avoid using glossy or colored paper, as it may contain toxic substances.
  3. Wood Chips: Chipped or shredded woody material, such as branches or pruned twigs, can help create air pockets in the compost pile, allowing for better decomposition.

Microbial-based Activators

Microbial-based activators introduce beneficial bacteria and fungi to the compost pile, enhancing the decomposition process. Here are some popular microbial activators:

  1. Compost Starter Kits: These kits contain a mixture of beneficial microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi, which jumpstart the decomposition process. They are convenient for beginners and can be easily sprinkled onto the compost pile.
  2. Compost Tea: Compost tea is created by steeping compost in water. It is rich in beneficial microorganisms and can be sprayed directly onto the compost pile or used to water plants.
  3. Effective Microorganisms (EM): EM is a combination of beneficial microorganisms that promote decomposition. It can be added directly to the compost pile or used as a foliar spray.

Benefits of Using Compost Activators

Using compost activators offers several benefits when it comes to composting. Let’s explore some of them:

A. Accelerated Decomposition: Compost activators speed up the breakdown of organic matter, reducing composting time and producing usable compost more quickly.

B. Enhanced Nutrient Content: Activators enrich the compost with essential nutrients, making it a potent soil amendment that promotes plant growth and vitality.

C. Increased Microbial Activity: Activators introduce beneficial microorganisms that break down organic matter efficiently, leading to a more active and robust microbial community in the compost.

D. Odor Reduction: Activators help to minimize unpleasant odors that can arise during the composting process, making it more pleasant for composting in urban or residential areas.

E. Pest and Disease Suppression: The decomposition process facilitated by activators can generate high temperatures, which can help kill weed seeds, pathogens, and harmful insects.

How to Use Compost Activators

To make the most of compost activators, it’s essential to follow proper usage guidelines. Here are some tips:

A. Mixing Ratio and Application: Follow the recommended mixing ratios specified on the activator packaging or guidelines. Apply the activator evenly throughout the compost pile.

B. Layering Techniques: Alternate layers of nitrogen-rich and carbon-rich materials in the compost pile. Each layer should be approximately 6 inches thick. Apply the activator between the layers.

C. Moisture and Aeration: Keep the compost pile moist but not saturated. Turn the pile regularly to provide oxygen to the microorganisms, promoting aerobic decomposition.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

While using compost activators can be beneficial, it’s important to avoid some common pitfalls:

A. Overuse of Activators: Using too much activator can upset the carbon-to-nitrogen ratio and hinder the composting process. Follow the recommended application rates to avoid this issue.

B. Inadequate Moisture and Aeration: Composting requires a balance of moisture and oxygen. Lack of moisture can slow down decomposition, while poor aeration can lead to anaerobic conditions and foul odors. Monitor and adjust as needed.

C. Improper Layering: Layering materials correctly is crucial for effective composting. Failing to alternate between nitrogen-rich and carbon-rich layers can result in a slow or unbalanced composting process.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Are compost activators necessary? Compost activators are not always necessary, but they can significantly speed up the composting process and enhance the quality of the compost.
  2. Can I make my own compost activator? Yes, you can create your own compost activator by combining nitrogen-rich and carbon-rich materials, such as manure and shredded leaves. However, commercial activators offer convenience and a specific blend of microorganisms.
  3. How long does it take for compost activators to work? The time it takes for compost activators to work depends on various factors, including the size of the compost pile, the materials used, and the environmental conditions. Typically, you can expect to see noticeable results within a few weeks to a few months.
  4. Can I use multiple types of activators in my compost pile? Yes, combining different types of activators can provide a diverse range of microorganisms and nutrients, enhancing the composting process. However, it’s important to follow the recommended application rates to maintain a balanced compost pile.
  5. Can compost activators be harmful to plants? When used correctly, compost activators are not harmful to plants. They contribute to the overall health of the soil and promote nutrient availability for plants. However, excessive use or improper application can have negative effects, so it’s crucial to follow the guidelines.


Compost activators play a valuable role in accelerating the composting process and improving the quality of the resulting compost. By choosing the right activators and following proper usage guidelines, you can create nutrient-rich compost that benefits your garden and reduces waste.

Experiment with different types of activators to find what works best for your compost pile and enjoy the rewards of healthy soil and thriving plants.