Guerilla Composting on an Urban Farm

Guerilla Composting on an Urban Farm

Benjamin Franklin once famously quipped: Waste Not, Want Not. We take that to heart here at Mezzacello. This is how we create guerilla composting on an urban farm.

When you come upon an empty dumpster full of grass clippings you take advantage! This is #DumpsterDiving 101. Here is a brief tutorial on how I build hot compost in 15 days.

Recipe for 14 Day Hot Compost:

Yes, this will seems like a lot of steps, and equipment. I am just being thorough.

  • Enough biomass to fill (6) 5 gallon buckets.
    • Three each of grass clippings and an equal amount of partially rotted leaves or well shredded leaves.
    • You don’t actually need 6 one will do as this is about volume, not containers.
    • The example in the gallery above filled (2.5) 5 gallon buckets.
  • A source of paper (paper bags, news papers, yard bags, etc)
  • A source of mineral nutrients
    • A gallon of coffee grounds, shredded banana peels, crushed egg shells
    • or
    • A small bag of blood meal, bone meal, and plant fertilizer
  • A collection of ethylene, amylase, sucrose, and ammonia:
    • A gallon of ammonia
    • A 2liter bottle of cheap NONDIET soda
    • A six pack of cheap beer
  • A mixer attachment for a hose (or a pitcher)
  • A garden hose
  • A tarp to lock in moisture


  1. Start with a piece of land devoid of grass.
  2. Lay a layer of paper, newspapers, paper bags.
  3. Dump the first bucket of grass, then the first bucket of leaves.
  4. Place coffee grounds and banana/eggshell or blood/bone meal.
  5. Then mix 1cup each of Ammonia, soda, and beer.
  6. Spray this layer with the ethylene/amylase/ammonia mixture until the mixture in the mixer is 1/3 depleted.
  7. Layer the second round of grass, leaves, coffee & meals,
  8. Spray another third.
  9. Layer grass, leaves, coffee/meals.
  10. Spray final third.
  11. Thoroughly soak the pile with water.
  12. Cover the pile in tarp.
    • Do not skip this step. The grass will cook everything if under a tarp.
  13. Let this sit for 8 days.
  14. Uncover, mix with a garden fork.
  15. Spray with ethylene/amylase/ammonia and coat thoroughly.
  16. Cover for four more days.
  17. Uncover, mix and let it rest.
  18. After 14 days it is cooked.


  • Clarissa Harris

    Hi Jim, I took the online gardening class with Julialynne and heard your presentations, (which were so informative)! TY!
    You gave the recipe for liquid compost; unfortunately I missed part of it. I have- 5 gallon bucket, rain/tap water, 1 c ammonia/urine, 1 c simple sugar, chicken manure or compost, how much?
    Thanks so much!

    • A


      I am terrible at using comments on my blog! Yeah, the recipe is super simple:
      5 gallon bucket (water 3.5 gallons)
      2 cups each of rabbit, chicken, horse manure
      – No manure? use 3 cups bone meal, 2 cups blood meal, 2 Tbsp Epsom Salt (buy at Menards)
      – You can also use 5 cups well-rotted compost
      1 cup worm casings (buy at Menards)
      1/2 cup syrup (with SUGAR!) or 1 cup sugar dissolved in warm water. Do not poor granular sugar in there!
      an airstone and a pump.
      Add the water to the bucket. Pour in your manures or meals, or compost, add the worm casings. Stir well. Pour in the syrup or lukewarm – not boiling – sugar water. Mix well. It’s OK if things float. Add in the airstone. Run airstone for 24 hours. DO NOT COVER. You will create pressure and the lid will fly off. You will need the extra room in the bucket for the foam. DO NOT DISCARD the foam! stir it back into the liquid. After 24 hours, stir well and drain the liquid. Mix 1 cup of this tea to 1 gallon water. Save the solids! Add to your compost.

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