Compost Starter – Here’s What You Need to Know

Composting is a great way to help reduce food waste and give back to the earth and support plant growth. However, composting isn’t exactly as easy as just throwing scraps into a pile. To compost successfully, you’ll need a compost starter. A compost starter helps get your compost pile balanced quickly so that you can create finished compost faster, but it may not always be necessary.

As someone who loves composting, I’ve done tons of research to figure out the “Do’s” and “Don’ts” of composting practices. Compost is full of microorganisms and bacteria, but the good kind that breaks down organic waste, reduces pathogens, and eliminates weed seeds. Having a compost starter or compost activator will help start the decomposition process, so you have a successful compost bin almost immediately.

What Is a Compost Starter?

A compost starter speeds up the process of getting a compost pile to decompose correctly. Compost starters are full of beneficial bacteria that help your compost pile start the natural decomposition process quicker than expected.

Compost starters are what sourdough starters are to bread makers. You get a little bit of something someone else has already made, and it helps you make the same thing with a little less effort and hassle. Compost starters aren’t always necessary, but they can make your life easier.

Do you need a compost starter?

When it comes to compost starters, you don’t always need one. When starting a compost pile, it’s crucial to have the right balance of browns and greens—carbon and nitrogen, respectively—as well as water and oxygen. If you don’t have this balance, a compost starter will help add nutrients to the compost.

That’s where a compost starter comes in. Compost accelerators add the beneficial bacteria and microbes needed to get the composting process into action. It helps you get a rich compost faster because the required microorganisms get added from the starter, rather than waiting for them to develop on their own.

Are Starters, Activators, and Accelerators the Same Thing?

Most gardeners use the terms interchangeably. However, some companies claim there are slight differences between the three terms.

But in simple terms, starters, activators, or accelerators doesn’t necessarily always mean the same thing. So the best advice is to so to check for its list of ingredients.

The correct compost starter should have clearly labeled specific list of ingredients. That includes nitrogen, carbon, microorganisms, and PH balancers. The more organic constituents it has the better it is.

Benefits of compost starter

The right compost starter offers numerous benefits:

Quick Decomposition Process and High-Quality Manure

Under ordinary circumstances, a compost heap requires around 12 months to decay to compost. However, the right compost accelerator shortens the process to a few weeks. Besides giving the process a natural boost, it ensures the compost is of high quality. 

It also provides the optimum temperature for the compost heap. The optimized temperature helps disintegrate hard organic material to finer continents without compromising nutrients. 

A compost starter helps balance the PH value of the heap. Hence, the microorganisms and fungi enjoy a perfect atmosphere for breaking down the materials. 

Eliminating Pathogens

The right compost starter boosts the temperature to 80 degrees and above. A compost pile accepts organic matters from varied sources. Therefore, there is a chance that some of the vegetables and grass clippings may be infected. 

However, the high temperatures of the composting process sterilize the compost. So your compost becomes free from pathogens or dangerous diseases. 

Natural Compost

The reputable compost starters from famous brands employ 100 percent organic materials. Therefore it helps you produce the healthy and organic compost that your plants need most. Such organic manure is eco-friendly. 

How to use compost starter

A compost starter is efficient if you use it correctly. So stick to the following tips:

Add only fresh organic matter to a compost pile. That includes grass clippings, garden weeds, and vegetable peelings from the kitchen. If possible, chop the organic materials into fine pieces before adding them to the compost heap. 

Each time you add fresh organic materials to the pile, moisten the materials and sprinkle the compost starter of the recommended ratio. Regularly, turn the heap to achieve optimum aeration and decomposition. 

Do not add cooked food to the compost pile. Otherwise, vermin will attack the compost heap. Always cover it to retain the moisture level. 

Things to look out before buying a compost starter

There are many compost starters in the market. Take the following factors into consideration to land a good compost starter:

Percentage of the Active Ingredients 

The effectiveness of a compost starter depends on the volume of the active ingredients. For quick results, the compost accelerator must have the active bacteria of the right proportion. 

Besides, it must also have an abundance of organic ingredients. Keep off the compost starter that has plenty of synthetic ingredients. Gardeners prefer compost since it’s natural and eco-friendly. So high concentration of synthetic chemicals beats the purpose of a compost activator. 

Nitrogen-Rich Ingredients

A good compost accelerator has plenty of ingredients that provide nitrogen. Other valuable elements include calcium, phosphorus, and potassium. In addition, the ratio of nitrogen to other ingredients matters. Otherwise, the bacteria won’t multiply faster, thus slowing down the composting process. 

Reputed Brands

It’s wise to choose compost accelerators from famous companies. Such reputed companies often love their customers and thus offer valuable support. You can verify the reputation of a company through reviews of past customers. 

What’s the Best Compost Starter ?

#1. Jobe’s Organics Compost Starter

The Jobe’s organic compost starter comes in a granular form. It has the Biozome formulation. So it contains three vital microorganisms. That includes the micorrhizal fungi, bacteria, and unique species of Archaea.

For that reason, it promises quick results in two to three weeks. Jobe’s compost starter comprises 100 percent organic compost nutrients. It’s made from feather meal, composted poultry manure, sulfate of potash, and bone meal.

Furthermore, it’s listed as OMRI (Organic Material Review Institute) by the United States Department of Agriculture. Hence you can count on it as free from synthetic chemicals.

You only need 2 cups of Jobe’s compost starter for a cubic yard of waste. And it comes in a 4lbs bag.


  • Simple to use
  • Certified organic nutrient
  • Fast-acting 
  • Balanced N P K ratio of 4-4-2
  • It has plenty of valuable bacteria


  • It requires reapplication every four to six weeks
  • It produces an unpleasant smell

check price and availability on Amazon

#2. Dr. Earth 727 Compost Starter

The Dr. Earth 727 compost starter is natural. The activator blends seaweed extract, alfalfa meal, and valuable soil microbes. The beneficial microorganism in Dr. Earth accelerates the decomposition of raw organic materials. 

Furthermore, it’s compatible with a broad range of composting applications. Its unique formulation helps to produce true humus. You have less to worry about since it’s human and pet friendly. The compost accelerator comes in a 3lb package. Therefore you can use it a couple of times.  


  • It supports versatile composting applications
  • Completely natural and organic
  • It’s both human and pet friendly


  • Its packaging needs improvement. Once you open it, resealing it is hard.

check price and availability on Amazon

#3. Espoma Organic Compost Starter

The Espoma organic compost starter has beneficial microbes that speed up the decomposition of organic wastes. Its constitution employs 100 percent bio organic mixture and PH balancers. 

To reap efficient composting, add the organic composter whenever you add a fresh layer of organic materials. Though it comes in a 4lbs bag, you need 1 cup of the compost starter per 16 square feet of compost. 

You need to add the Bio-Excelerator to a fresh organic pile. In addition you have to moisten and turn it on often. That way, you can have the compost ready in about months.


  • 100 percent natural
  • Friendly to pets
  • Produces humus in about three months
  • Simple to use


  • It has a strong smell
  • Needs reapplication every time you add a layer of organic wastes

check price and availability on Amazon


Do Compost Starters Work?

Long story short, yes, compost starters do actually work. Again, they aren’t necessary if you have a proper balance of materials, but adding some compost starter can help you get good compost quicker. That means richer fertilizer for your garden soil. You can buy a compost starter or make your own.

How to Make a Compost Starter?

If you don’t want to spend the money on buying packaged compost starter, you can always DIY it and make your own compost tea starter. To make your own compost tea, you’ll need:

  • A sealable container
  • One bottle of beer
  • One can of regular soda (not diet!)
  • Half a cup of ammonia
  • Two gallons of warm water

Combine half of the beer, the whole can of soda, and the half cup of ammonia in the container, like a sealable bucket, and then add the two gallons of water. The yeast from the beer and added boost of ammonia will help speed up the decomposition process, while the soda will provide extra sugars for the microbes.

Once you’ve made the mixture, you can transfer some of it to a watering can and sprinkle it on top of your beginning compost pile. It’s essential to use a sealable container because you won’t use all of the mixture at once. You can sprinkle the mixture once every few days.

What’s The Best Way to Set Up and Maintain a Compost Pile?

While it may be tempting to throw together all your yard waste, kitchen scraps, and other organic matter and watch it decompose, a compost pile does need to be a bit more planned than that. You need to know the best way to set up your compost pile, so it remains stable and usable.

The Layers of Composting

You should start your compost pile on the bare earth, then lay down the brown materials like twigs and straw. These will help with drainage and keep the pile aerated.

Next, pile in some green materials, also known as the “wet” waste. This includes kitchen waste or yard waste like fresh leaves. Afterward, you’ll add brown materials onto the green. Sawdust, straw, dry leaves, etc., are all brown materials. Continue to layer green, brown, etc., until you run out of materials. 

Then you can add manure (not fresh, though) or green waste, like clover or grass clippings, to help activate the compost pile. This is also where you could add your compost starter, whether it is homemade or store-bought. Once you’ve built your compost pile, you’ll want to water it every so often. You can leave this to the rain or water it on your own.

To maintain your compost pile, you’ll need to keep it covered. This can be with a tarp, wood, or a plastic sheet. The last step in cultivating a compost pile is to turn it every few weeks with a shovel or pitchfork. This helps get the compost the oxygen it needs via aeration.

So, Do You Really Need a Compost Starter?

Compost starters are very beneficial when establishing a new compost pile, but they aren’t mandatory. While they can speed up the process, ultimately, nature will do what it needs to as long as you’ve correctly layered the compost pile during setup.


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