Natural Gardening

 

 

 

  When Will Your Compost be Ready

Patience is needed when you compost.  It can take anywhere from one month to one year for your first batch of humus to be ready to use.  It will depend on the size of your bin, if you are using cold or hot composting, what you are putting into the compost and the weather.  Another factor to consider is what you will be using the finished product for. Different uses can utilize the compost at different stages of the process.

The longer a compost is allowed to decompose the finer, darker, and richer it becomes.  But you do not have to wait until it reaches this state to use it.  If you want to use the compost as mulch for your flower beds or other areas of your garden you can use it when
it is still in a chunkier state.  The mulch is used to keep an even temperature for the soil and discourage weed growth.

If you are going to be using the mature compost to add to your planting pots, the compost should be at the last stages of the process.  Things to look for to know that your compost is ready are:

* The amount of material that is in your bin is reduced to approximately half of the original contents.
* When you look at the finished material, you can not tell what it used to be – no
parts are recognizable.
* The pile will no longer be as hot (if using the hot composting method)
* The compost is dark in color and looks very much like a rich top soil

In order to have a steady supply of mature compost it is recommended to have a two-bin system going.  Once your first container is full, you can continue to compost with the second bin until you can use the material from the first. 

  

Ongoing Care for your Compost Pile

Unless you are using a cold composting method, your compost pile is going to need regular care and maintenance.  You need to monitor it for any foul odors, heat generation, and moisture levels.  You will need to rotate or turn the material on a regular basis.  You should know when to stop adding materials and let the process finish.  And the final step
is to use a screen to separate any larger materials that did not fully break down.

If there is a bad smell coming from your compost pile turn the pile over to increase air circulation.  You should also add more brown food (leaves, straw/hay, or small twigs) and make sure the top layer of your pile is only brown food.

You will learn the trick of adding water to your pile to make it moist without making to wet with some trial and error.  Inevitably you will make the pile too wet at one point during the process.  If you do, try rotating the material to soak up any extra water and if that doesn’t work, add more brown food.

You can purchase a thermometer that is made especially for composting.  You want the pile to retain a certain temperature to work properly (105-140 degrees Fahrenheit) but if it exceeds 155 degrees, it is too hot.

Routine turning of your pile is necessary to add oxygen, cut-down on odors and to aid in the breaking-down process.  You should turn your pile every other day or at a minimum two times per week.

After the heat phase, the compost pile needs some time to cure and finish the decomposing process.  You can add red earthworms at this point to aid in the curing the humus.

Before you use your finished product, you should put the compost through a screen to catch any larger items that did not compost properly or enough.

 

  


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Nathaniel Hawthorne
"I used to visit and revisit it a dozen times a day, and stand in deep contemplation over my vegetable progeny with a love that nobody could share or conceive of who had never taken part in the process of creation.  It was one of the most bewitching sights in the world to observe a hill of beans thrusting aside the soil, or a rose of early peas just peeping forth sufficiently to trace a line of delicate green."  ~ Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mosses from and Old Manse