Compost Cycle

Have you ever wondered what to expect in terms of how many stages your compost pile should go through, how hot the pile gets, and how to know when the composting cycle is finished? If so, follow along as I explain how to identify the different stages of a hot compost cycling.

To measure your compost’s heat at different stages of the compost cycle/composting timetable, you need a compost thermometer which can be found at garden centers. Alternately, you can use a meat thermometer mounted on the end of a stick. Either one works well if you wish to have precise temperatures when monitoring the different stages of the composting timetable.

The compost cycle is as follows:

Stage 1: Once your pile has been put together according to the compost recipe and has been covered, the temperature of the pile should rise steadilyand peak between 50 degrees C and 65 degrees C (120F to 150F), 24 hours to one week later.

Stage 2: After the temperature peaks, it begins to drop; now is the time to turn your compost pile inside out. Break up any clumps of material and turn your compost pile so that the outside parts end up being at the base and center of the your compost pile. If the pile is too dry, this is the time to wet it when you are redoing your compost pile.

Stage 3: Now that the compost pile has been turned inside out and any lacking humidy has been added, it is time to cover the pile again, and wait.

Stage 4: According to the compost cycle/composting timetable, the temperature should peak again in about a week if your compost pile is made of well shredded material. (Remember, the smaller the pieces, the faster the compost.)

Stage 5: For the second time the pile begins to cool. Again turn the pile by bringing the inside material to the outside of the pile and the outside material to the base and center of your pile. Add water if necessary for the pile must remain humid.

Stage 6: In another week or two after the temperature peaks again and cools, the compost should be finished. When the compost is ready for use, the temperature of the pile won’t rise above 43 degreesC (110F) no matter how often you turn it.

Dark and crumbly, fresh-smelling material with very little of the original material identifiable signals the end of the compost cycle/composting timetable for this pile.

Now that you have compost, where and how can it be used?

To find out, tune in to my next posts.

Meanwhile, happy gardening.


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