So – the compost pile is made…. fast forward to two weeks later… the compost is composting! Despite my well-intentioned but slightly incorrect assemblage (i really should have shredded all that glossy newsprint, or at least ripped it up into smaller pieces), my fast compost pile is hot-hot-hot! Maybe even a little too hot. Not to worry, I can cool it down by turning it more regularly. And we can only learn by doing, really…
Things to note in the compost-turning process:
Peel the pile – scrape off an outer layer of the pile and make the new base with it. Do it again. And again. What will eventually happen is that the middle of the base of the pile will end up on the outside of the top of the turned pile… and your compost will be well and truly turned inside out. This is important. Think of it as the soil version of that good ‘ol Aussie adage; ‘have a go, ya mug’… you want all those soil microbes to have a fair chance, don’t you?
Make sure the moisture is right - you want it so that when you squeeze a handful of your compost, you get one drip forming at the bottom of the squeeze – no more. If this isn’t happening, adjust your water input accordingly when turning it. In an ideal world you shouldn’t need to water the pile after the first turning.
Mediate the temperature – apon your compost pile’s first turning (around the 4-day mark by this fast composting method), your compost should be pretty hot – around the 60 degree mark. Burrow your hand into the middle of the pile (careful!) – if it’s hot enough to make you go ‘ouch’, but not so hot that you rush off screaming, it’s probably around the 60 degree mark. This is ok for the first and second turning. After that, you want it to be a bit cooler each time, till finally, at around the 18-22 day mark, the pile should be just warm. If your pile is too hot after the second turning, turn it more regularly – every day if necessary. It should start to right itself with a bit of aeration.
If your compost is too cold and isn’t heating up at the beginning of the process, the best thing you can do is wee on it. Yes, urine is the bomb source of nitrogen, which will heat things up in your pile. If this seems inappropriate under the conditions, just get yourself a bucket with a lid, wee into that, add a bit of water and pour it on. Tell your neighbor/husband/whoever that it’s… whatever you like. But it’s the fastest way to a heat a cold compost pile. And check that you didn’t get your calculations of ingredients completely wrong with our Compost Calculator.
And then, keep turning! Not far now! I can hear my future seedlings calling to me already…