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
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
The hot composting method (also known as fast or active composting) is the most
common as it yields desired results relatively quickly. It is also the best method to take
care of unwanted weeds as it will destroy the seeds during the heat phase.
After you have picked a level site for your composting bin, you will need a good base for
the bottom of leaves and high-quality soil. The leaves should be chopped or chipped so
that no one piece is larger than two-three inches (this is a good rule of thumb for all
materials added to the bin).
Once your bin and base are in place you can start to add your green food (nitrogen-rich)
and your brown food (carbon-rich). The ratio that should be roughly followed is one part
green for every two parts brown.
Monitor the pile every other day for moisture control and temperature. During this time
you need to rotate or turn the pile to get good air flow inside the pile and to help with
Once your pile is full or has finished the heat phase, let it cure. The length of curing will
depend on your intended use of the finished product. To eliminate any larger pieces of
organic matter that did not break down use a screen to sift them out. But if you follow
the rule of not putting in anything that is larger than three inches this should not happen.
A compost humus can be ready to use in as little as 3-4 weeks with a hot composting
method and maintenance to the pile on a regular schedule. If you are going to use the
cold (or inactive) method of composting, it can take up to one year for usable compost to