Composting Maintenance
Composting Maintenance

I am now getting ready to begin maintenance on the first compost pile. I am planning to post additional information when the maintenance is finished.

The following should be considered when maintaining a compost pile.
  • Aeration - Hot piles require aeration which is accomplished by turning the pile. Cool piles also need occasional turning. A pile can be aerated simply with a piece of half-inch bamboo. Make holes three to six inches apart which reach all the way through the pile. Aerate the pile at least every three to seven days until it is no longer heating up. Wait at least two days after making the pile and then pull away some of the surface material to six inches down and see if the pile is warm. Check the pile every day. Be sure to cover the hole after each test.
  • Adding materials - Keep adding material to the center of the pile as it cooks and turn the whole pile whenever it begins to cool. Put in new material when you turn the pile.
  • Finished pile - When the pile is finished let it sit for a couple of weeks before using. Important degradation processes go on only at cooler temperatures. Compost is ready or finished when it is dark brown, crumbly, and smell like soil.
  • Unfinished pile - Immature compost may contain substances damaging to plants and immature compost in soil continues to decay, a process which requires nitrogen and oxygen. When these elements are being used to degrade organic material, they’re unavailable to plants. Be sure the compost is ready.
  • Removing pieces - Remove large pieces with screening and return them to the pile. A screen can be built from a few boards and a square of wire netting and set directly over a wheelbarrow. To avoid screening better to keep out slow-composting items. Keep a separate pile for these slow items. Add nitrogen to this pile to speed the composting process along.
  • Note - For all of the bacterial plant pathogens and nematodes, the majority of fungal plant pathogens, and a number of plant viruses, a compost temperature of 131°F (55°C) for 21 days is sufficient for eradication.
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