So you’re checking up on your compost pile and wonder how often should I turn my compost pile? The last time you typed this question on your browser, there were several answers on the internet. Some suggest that the compost pile should be turned daily in order to speed up the process of decomposition. However, there were others that advised against excessively turning your compost heap because it prevents the dissipation of heat. Then there were those that suggested that turning a pile is a complete waste of time, especially if the heap has the right amount of browns and greens. These contradicting answers can leave you more confused than you were at the start. This can leave you randomly turning your compost at odd times which sometimes isn’t great for your pile. Hopefully I’m here to help you with this. So lets get into this subject a little more and find out just how often you should turn your compost?
The intervals for turning your compost will depend on the size of the pile, amount of moisture in the pile and the green to brown ratio of materials added to the pile. That being said, experts recommend that your compost should be turned at least three times a week. However, turning should be limited to once a week as soon as your compost begins to mature.
There are other factors that allow for turning more than thrice weekly. In this article, these factors will be explored. In addition, we would also consider alternatives to turning your compost heap with a shovel or pitchfork.
Do I need to turn my compost?
Yes, you need to turn your compost. The major benefit your compost stands to gain from turning is aeration. If you do not turn your pile, it will not break down easily and may become anaerobic. Turning your compost is a sure way to help your compost get oxygen.
Turning helps to reduce foul odor and eliminate matting. When your pile contains too much nitrogen, it will produce a putrid odor. Turning odorous or matted heap will open pockets of space that allows heat and air through the pile
Turning your compost will also prevent overconsumption of necessary nutrients by microbes. When you don’t turn, microbes at the center of the pile will use up oxygen and nutrients needed for their survival and eventually die off. Turning ensures that healthy bacteria and materials are returned to the center of the heap, which will keep the process going.
How often should I turn my compost pile?
Turning is very essential to the process of decomposition. It ensures your pile is aerated and this will help your compost break down easily. However, how often you should turn your compost largely depends on three factors – green to brown ratio, the size of the pile and the amount of moisture in the pile.
That being said, experts recommend that your compost should be turned at least three times a week. As your compost matures, turning should be limited to once a week. Avoid turning your compost daily to prevent the dissipation of heat. Remember that compost also needs heat to achieve a desirable result. If you turn daily, your compost may never reach an adequate temperature.
Other than these factors listed above, your compost pile should also be turned each time you add new material. To enable the absorption of the new material, you need to ensure that the waste finds its way into the center of the pile. Adding garbage without turning your pile may slow down the process of decomposing.
If you notice your pile is slowly decomposing, you also need to turn the pile often. Other signs that your compost needs to be turned include pest infestation and smelly compost.
What do you do if your compost smells when you turn it?
If your compost smells when you turn it, it is an indication that it has gone anaerobic. This means that your pile lacks oxygen to support aerobic microbes. Normally, your compost should emanate a rich, earthy scent. If it smells otherwise, you need to review how you make compost.
Firstly, you need to check the location where your pile is located. Does it pile have a balance of elements? Is it in a location where it doesn’t get heat? If yes, you may need to change its location. Compost that doesn’t get enough heat will become damp and soggy and rather than decompose, it will become dormant and odorous.
Next, you need to review the mixture of things you are adding to your pile. A shortage of brown materials may be the reason your pile smells when you turn it. If you have too many greens in your pile, your compost will not break down and may have a foul odor. To fix this, add browns such as corn cobs, cardboard, dry twigs, paper bags and leaves to your pile. This will help balance the contents of your pile.
A lack of aeration may also be responsible for this odor. Without oxygen, the compost will get compacted and start to smell. Air is very essential to the composting process and the only way to ensure your compost gets air is by turning it with a garden or pitchfork.
The unsuitable materials you have been adding to the top of your compost pile may also be responsible for the smell. When composting at home, fish and meat scraps, eggs, fats, dairy products, and leftover food should be buried into the heap, rather than the top of the pile.
Finally, you can make use of hydrated white-lime to get rid of this foul smell. White-lime neutralizes the acid response for generating odors and allows for decomposition to occur easily.
Should I turn my compost in the winter?
Yes, you should turn your compost in the winter. Although the process of breaking down will slow down in the winter, your compost should be turned as always. As long as temperatures remain above freezing, your compost will continue to break down. Keep adding materials like you do during other seasons. As soon as temperatures rise, the microorganism will continue the process
Why should you aerate your compost pile?
Aeration is very beneficial to the process of decomposition. For your compost to break down, microbes need to have an adequate supply of oxygen. If there is no air, the microbes will die off and decomposition will slow down.
Aerating your compost pile will help to prevent compaction. When there is room for air in your compost, oxygen will get inside the pile and supply microbes air needed for decomposition.
For a compost that is too wet, aeration will also help to drain excess moisture. When your compost pile is turned, excess water will be drained away, opening pockets of space in between for air.
Aerating your pile will prevent overheating in the compost pile. While compost needs heat to break down, too much of it can cause microbes to die off. Turning your pile will distribute hot compost to the cooler outer part, which will help to maintain the ideal temperature needed for decomposition.
How to aerate your compost pile
So how do you aerate your compost pile?
Aerating your compost is very easy. If you have a compost tumbler, you only need to turn the barrel regularly. All compost tumblers come as a complete unit which makes it easier to turn.
If you have an open compost pile, simply turn by inserting a shovel or garden fork and turn it over. Gardeners with double or triple bins can turn the compost by moving it from one bin to the other. This is a great way to ensure your pile is thoroughly mixed.
What is a compost aerator?
Turning your compost, especially when you have a large heap can be back-breaking work. It can be difficult for older people to keep up with the stress of turning a pile thrice weekly.
Compost aerator is the perfect solution to this problem. You do not have to expend as much energy as you would if you were using a shovel or pitchfork. With a compost aerator, your pile will get needed air to break down easily.
How do I use my compost aerator?
To use your compost aerator, thrust it directly into the center of your pile. Then pull up on the compost aerator. As you do this, the folded wings will open and begin to turn the compost. While gripping the handles, pull the aerator up and down until both center and outer layers are thoroughly mixed. It is important that you relax your shoulders while doing this. Do not panic if the wings get stuck. Just continue with the process.
Clean the wings with a spray of water as soon as you are done. You can oil the branded coupling occasionally.
Turning your pile is very important to the composting process. Three times weekly is the ideal option if the process is just starting off. Do not turn your compost daily. Your piles need heat to achieve a desirable result and turning too much will slow this process down. Compost just want to be nice and warm, well aerated and well fed.