estorms
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Re: If compost is hot, should I turn it?

There are no compost police. If you keep it outside in a pile, it's really hard to get it wrong. I put what I have on when I have it. In the fall, I layer it up with leaves. Every little bit you compost stays out of a landfill and enriches your garden.

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grrlgeek
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Re: If compost is hot, should I turn it?

I thought I'd dredge up this topic that I started last fall to give an update and thank everyone again for their input.

I tend to like to know how everything works, and then how to be as efficient as possible doing it within the rules of the game. It's hard for me to sit on my hands and wait a year for a pile of compost, even though I do know full well that it will rot, and it will be good stuff when that happens. And your reassurances helped a lot!

But at the same time, as a mere fledgling in this adventure, nearly every (always excellent) piece of advice about how to obtain success begins with, you guessed it, compost! And the stuff they sell around here looks more like bark mulch, which is nice if you like mulch, but I need compost and I need lots of it. So, I know I may sound a bit impatient... and I dream of the day when I can harvest last year's compost that's been waiting patiently for me to use it.

For now, I'm trying to put in the perfect ratio, spend some extra time taking its temperature, fluffing, watering, and bang, mountains of black gold in a couple month's time. Not that we got to use it in the fall as I had hoped, but it was very close to ready and I could well have set up the new bed if it hadn't gotten too cold outside to build it (I'm a wuss in the cold) and a dozen other excuses too. LOL

The one thing I'd do differently though, is that I went ahead and turned it when it was still super hot (140+) because it had been days longer than the science says is the best time to turn it. The next pile, I'm going to let bubble until it gets into the 120 degree range, then charge the middle with some fresh hi-test greens to get it cooking again after turning. After that first turn, it only went back to 140 for about a day, then hovered in the low 130's and dropped quickly after that. It's dark and rich-looking though!

Here's the new bottomless pit I have to fill, not to mention the myriad other uses I have for compost. There will never be enough!!!
(That's the one-year design.  Our plan for next year is to build a retaining wall around it and double the height, and ultimately, remove the wood.  It's 100.25 sf, 6" deep on one side, 10" deep on the downslope.)
(That's the one-year design. Our plan for next year is to build a retaining wall around it and double the height, and ultimately, remove the wood. It's 100.25 sf, 6" deep on one side, 10" deep on the downslope.)
keyhole.jpg (22.04 KiB) Viewed 1115 times
Thanks again for all your very helpful replies!

Devon
Zone - USDA 8b / Sunset 11

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rainbowgardener
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Re: If compost is hot, should I turn it?

Cool bed! I like how it has the inlet for walking in, being able to reach stuff.

I agree, never enough compost. You wouldn't really want to fill the whole bed just with compost anyway. Compost is better mixed with topsoil and other amendments. "Mel's mix" that square foot gardeners use is 1/3 compost, 1/3 peat moss (you could use coconut coir) and 1/3 mineral ingredients for drainage.

Once the bed is filled, as far as continued feeding through the season, I make some of my compost in to compost tea or compost infusion (not brewed and bubbled) to stretch it more.

Thanks very much for coming back and updating this... we often never hear any results of stories.
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estorms
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Re: If compost is hot, should I turn it?

Your compost probably would have cooled down in a couple of days anyway. I try to turn mine once a month if possible, but I have a lot of grass clippings and leaves. I am willing to wait for it. This spring I will use the finished compost and anything that is still not decomposed can be the beginning of my new piles.

RickRS
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Re: If compost is hot, should I turn it?

I'm doing my first compost piles, as well.

Couple of things; Those piles of horse manure from stables are not very high in nitrogen (greens). I found this out when the master gardener advising the community garden I'm involve with had us start a pile with brown leaves and manure from a stable. It wouldn't heat up. I confirm this with the person involved in Florida's Sarasota community garden. They handle 30 tons of raw material annually for the numerous gardens in their area and run the Florida Online Composting Center website ( https://sarasota.ifas.ufl.edu/compost-info/ ) They found they needed to treat stable waste as high carbon (browns) and ramp up the nitrogen to balance. And their advice to get that pile going? Load it up with coffee grounds!

Second, USDA Organic standards for composting requires you to get the compost above 130F and then turn a minimum of five times in 2 weeks while maintaining temperature above 130. I'm recalling this from memory, so I may have it a little distorted, but they expect hot composting to require frequent turning. This mainly to breakdown potential pathogens in the manures (I think).

I'm thinking turning 4-5 days while it's hot may work well. I've turned my leaf and coffee pile at home (five foot diameter pile that 3 1/2 feet high) four times. The first 7 days after it got to 130F and stayed there at 130F all that time. After turning, which allow me to see the center was getting very dry and allowed rewetting, the temperature started at about 100-110F and then climbed to 140F and stablized for 5 days. Day 6 and 7 temperature edged down to 136, and I turned the pile again. Shot back to 140 in two days, so I turned on day 6. After a couple of days pile was back up to 140F and then climbed to 151F! That was 5 days ago, and I want to turn this monster tomorrow, if I can.

The center has been getting progressively richer in color and texture. With frequent turning, you'll get a good idea of the moisture content of the pile and bring more oxygen into the mix to keep the bacteria happy and growing. Sounds like a no-brainer if you have a big pile and got hot composting going to turn that thing often.

estorms
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Re: If compost is hot, should I turn it?

That sounds like the best way to get the best compost in the shortest amount of time. I have four piles 4X4X4 feet . I am just too lazy to turn that often.

tomc
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Re: If compost is hot, should I turn it?

I suppose it is possible to build and fill a pallet compost bin and have it catch afire. That said, after fourty years of trying, I never did manage to kindle one.

I have found that a bank of two or three bins will fill easier and make a progression easier. By filling each one in turn. the oldest will have been filled, heated and cooled and collapsed and can be shoveled out to use in the garden. The brushy-bits that are too noticable can go into the new pile that is currently being filled for another go at rotting.

Please notice there is darned little in the way of turning being described in my outline. Cause I don't do that. I'm old and broken down myself, and keeping me turning is enough for me... ;)
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