So, how long does it take to make compost? It all depends on how you manage it. This segment shows two ways to achieve the same goal of rich, brown compost.

Produced by the Department of Communications and Agricultural Education at Kansas State University. For more information, visit our website at:

Composting - How Long Does it Take?

The question that everyone asks is “how long does it take to get compost?” That’s a good question without a simple answer. The best way to answer the question is that the more work and energy that you put into managing the compost pile, as far as the proper brown/green ratio, and keeping it moist – the quicker the composting process happens. That would be what we call an active, or a hot compost pile, because we’re actively managing the pile.

The other way to manage a compost pile is the lazy man’s way, called passive or cold composting. In that process, you just pile it up and let it rot. Let mother nature run it’s course.

In a fast acting, hot composting process, it may take four to six months for all the material to break down. It could be quicker if it’s really fine material. For the passive compost, it may take six to twelve months to transform all that garden debris into finished compost.

So, the more you mange – the quicker the compost. If you don’t manage it, you’ll still get compost. It just takes longer to get to the end or finished process.

A question we often get is “how do you know when the compost pile is finished?” The best answer is “when it doesn’t look like the materials you put in.” So, if you can’t tell that the material includes banana peels and grass clippings. And, if it looks more like a brown, rich, earthy material – then you have finished compost ready to use in the garden.

This feature story prepared with Dennis Patton, Kansas State University Research and Extension Horticulture Agent, Johnson County. For more information, visit your local county extension office or visit our website at

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