5 Ways To Air Compost Pile

Why you must keep adding air to your compost pile

When backyard composting, you must often add air to your compost pile because air penetrates only the first few inches of the pile; it cannot easily get through to the middle of the pile.

If you suddenly get that nasty rotten egg smell around the compost, oxygen is lacking and anaerobic bacteria are moving in. In other words, the pile may simply need to breathe, and it is time to add air to your compost pile.

When hot composting, plenty of air is essential to develop the high temperatures needed to kill harmful bacteria and speed the process of decomposition; therefore, air must be added to the pile in one of these five ways:

Five Ways To Add Air To Your Compost Pile

1. Turning: The most effective method of introducing air to your home compost pile is to turn the pile with a garden fork.

Lift the material from the top and sides of the compost pile, toss it into the more active center of the new pile; then add the partially decomposed center to the outside.

In other words, take the composting material from the outside and from the top of your compost pile and exchange it with the composting material in the middle of your pile.

2. Stirring: If you would rather not do the work of turning a compost pile, try stirring it with a stick instead (much harder to achieve desired results). However, this won’t distribute the air as evenly, so the composting process will be somewhat slower.

3. Aerator Tools: At a garden center you can buy an aerator — a rod with flaps on one end and a handle on the other. Holding the tool by the handle, you jab the pointed end into the compost pile as far as you can and then pull the tool back outwards or upwards. As you pull it back out of the compost pile, the flaps unfold to pull up and loosen the materials. Using an aerator is easier than turning, and this method brings more air into the compost pile than stirring .

4. Air Stack: Another approach to bring air to your compost pile is to build your compost pile around a perforated pipe, a bundle of long twigs, or a tube of wire mesh (chicken wire works well) standing on end. In other words, place one of the three perforated pipes in the middle of your empty compost bin, then add the compost material around the item. This allows the air to get to the center of your pile between turnings. With air stacks, you can skip the turning, although the pile won’t heat up as efficiently.

5. Elevated Compost: Most compost piles rest on bare ground, but you can build it instead on a raised platform of loosely spaced boards and allow air to be drawn up into your compost pile from the bottom. If you elevate your compost pile, however, be sure to sprinkle garden soil throughout the pile to introduce those essential soil bacteria.

Of all these five methods (turning, stirring, aerator tool, air stack and elevated compost) of bringing air to the compost pile, I preferred using the aerator tool because I found this method did the best job of quickly bringing air to the center of the compost pile with minimum effort.

The next post will deal with the second of the three essentials needed by the decomposer organisms in your compost pile — Water: how you can keep just the right amount of moistness for the best results.

Until then . . .

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