Moving compost

By Kati Schnierer
VGI Community Solutions Program Fellow

The end of October brought the last official workday in Concordia Gardens for the season. Luckily, thanks to a very determined volunteer group’s help we managed to get all the rows ready for the winter in a quite short amount of time. And than we realized there was not much left to do! Because of the cold wind it was not possible to weed or pick garbage, so we started to look for hard physical work that would prevent us from freezing to death. I am happy to announce that we found the perfect project for cold weather:

TURNING THE COMPOST PILE.

The advantages are:

  • it builds your muscles,
  • warms you up,
  • you can meet new forms of life while studying the pile,
  • you can put your cold hand close to the pile to warm it up. 🙂

It was pretty exciting to see how quickly or slowly the different materials turned into compost and we also relocated some worms to make the process faster.

Why is turning the compost important? (Source)

“Turning (aerating) your pile may mean all the difference between getting compost within 4-8 weeks or 3-8 months. Every pile needs a periodic influx of oxygen. If not, your compost heap may just sit there with the bacteria feeling rather sluggish. This anaerobic condition (meaning without air) means slower decomposition, lower temperatures, and possible odor, a potential problem with the Add-as-You-Go pile.

Here are 5 good reasons you should turn your compost pile:

  1. Turning re-heats the pile to keep it in an aerobic state
    Air is important to the decomposition process. Think how long a fire will burn if it does not have air. The mix of carbon (BROWN) and nitrogen (GREEN) organic material in your compost bin/pile is like a fire; air is necessary to keep it going.
  2. Turning creates new passageways for air and moisture before the pile compresses
    As material decomposes your pile will compress and shrink in size. This will naturally cool down the pile sooner than the material is fully decomposed. Turning exposes more particles of material. It fluffs it all up, thereby allowing the mix of air, moisture and heat to continue the decomposition process.
  3. Turning speeds up the composting process
    A cold pile breaks down very slowly, like a fire going out or extinguished. Each time you turn your pile you create more surface area for the vegetal material, enough so that the pile will reheat itself repeatedly after each turning.
  4. Turning elimates odors and matting of material
    A pile that stinks probably has too much nitrogen (GREEN) materials and/or is to moist. It is also probably compressed under the weight of so much moisture in the green materials. Adding more carbon (BROWN) materials to balance out the greens is important, at which time turning is critical to fluff up the organic material. In any case, turning odorous or matted compost heaps exposes more surface area so that air and heat can move again through the pile.
  5. Turning solves many composting problems!
    Already we have given you several problem-solving reasons above for turning your compost. Other reasons can be found in our Compost Troubleshooting Chart.

But actually some people do not agree with it. Here you can read why not to turn it. And of course there are several more readings accessible via Google if you have the time and interest.

What do you think, dear Reader? Do you turn your compost? How often?

How have we done it? “Simple.” We just decided to move the whole pile about a yard away from it’s original spot. And since we were lucky to be a group of 3 enthusiastic girls, we started from both ends. This is the result after 2 hours:

compost

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