How Hot Is Your Compost Pile?
How to make a good compost pile.
What you’ve got to know about compost… is that it needs material… water… air… dirt… and it will start cooking.
You’ll discover that a good compost pile will climb to 140 degrees… and cook pathogens to death.
Remember how your momma taught you that a fever up to a certain point is good for you… it “cooks” the bad stuff out of your body? Well, the same goes for a compost pile.
The end goal of your composting is to get some good smelling, sweet dirt that helps your plants grow nice and bright.
But along the way to the goal… a hot compost pile will kill or destroy roundworms, protozoans, bacteria, and viruses and… salmonella.
If you want to get sweet-smelling composted dirt fast, out of your pile… make sure your compost pile is somewhere between 130 degrees to 160 degrees for 15 days. With a heat range like that, you know there is lots of microbe activity going on. Those tiny critters are eating and having sex and getting the most out of every tiny ounce of grass clippings, left over kitchen waste or horse manure you put in.
Once the pile cools down below 130º… you can flip the pile… mixing things up will start the heating process all over again.
Flipping the pile once or twice should be enough to use your composted soil in about 6 months.
Things you can and should put into your compost pile.
• Leftover veggies.
• Grass clippings.
• Coffee grounds.
• Orange peelings.
• Egg shells.
• Cow poop.
• Horse poop.
• Rabbit poop.
• Corn stalks, sunflower stalks.
• Chicken poop.
Things you don’t want to put into your compost pile.
(Note: Everything breaks down eventually. But these things should be toss into a separate pile… one that you won’t use for a year or two…to give them plenty of time to break down.)
• Don’t use dog or cat poop.
• Or…Meat products.
• Or … Morning glory or ivy vines. (They are hard to kill and will likely start growing again in your garden or farm once you spread the composted soil around.)
• Don’t use oleander, hemlock or caster beans. These are poisonous plants and will harm the soil.
• Don’t use pine needles. They are acidic. Too acidic for most plants. However, strawberries love acidic soil. So, if you’re growing strawberries… pine needle on baby.
• Also, don’t use eucalyptus, bay laurel, walnut, juniper or cypress leaves or materials. Those plants have acids that are toxic to other plants. Keep them separate from your regular compost pile.
Remember here—The goal is to FEED YOUR SOIL so that you don’t have to “feed your plants.”
If you take a hike through any forest you’ll see life everywhere. Everything seems to be growing fine. And notice that the forest floor is one big, wide, compost pile. Leaves piled on top of leaves. An occasional dead and decomposing animal. Piles or mounds of dirt stacked by gophers, ground hogs, moles, or mice.
There is life and death taking place all over the forest.
In a way we’re trying to imitate that cycle with your compost pile. Life and death. Recycling “waste” to give life to new plants.
How hot is your compost pile?
Generally speaking… you’ll get the heat action going by layering the material onto your pile like this…
1. First loosen the soil… fluff it up… 12 inches or so.
2. Then, lay down stalks, twigs, small branches and big stuff goes on the bottom.
3. Next pile on your dry vegetation… leaves, straw, dry manure.
4. Then, add “green” manure… veggies, kitchen waste, wet manure.
5. Then a layer of soil on top.
The layering will help the pile breath. Air is important to the decomposing action.
Notice that you want to keep air away from most things in your kitchen fridge. You wrap them in plastic or put then in Tupperware. That air starts the leftovers to spoil.
But in a compost pile you want that “spoiling” process. Thus, you need air. Don’t compact your pile. Let it breath on it’s own and it will fall gentle down as it’s decomposing.
Note: Often you want to cover your compost pile with a tarp when a heavy rain is coming. Why? Because the heavy rain will compact parts of the pile, like the grass clippings. And compacted grass clippings will not breath. And the pile needs the air.
You’ll know when your pile is done. It’s no longer hot and the soil smells sweet and crumbles in your hand.
Now, use it to feed your soil.
Sajo Farm Boy.