Is there such a thing as stirring compost TOO often?

greendreamhomeFebruary 7, 2014

I've had my earth machine composter for about a month. I started by filling it about a third of the way with dried crushed leaves, and I've been adding fruit and vegetable ends, peels and scraps every day. Every time I add wet ingredients I stir things up very well with a shovel. All the composting articles say to stir often, but they seem to be geared at getting people to stir a few times a week. Is stirring daily better -- will my compost develop faster? -- or am I messing with it too much?

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paleogardener(9)

For your description, stirring/mixing when you add is recommended for an add-as-you-go set up.
For a hot batch pile once a week is enough.
Stirring daily has no benefit as this is not suffient time between stirrings to allow microbes to distribute through all the matl. & heat things up.
BTW "messing with it" only means you are learning as you go & having fun :) Hope this helps...
Never stop composting!

    Bookmark   February 7, 2014 at 3:37PM
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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

Some people will tell you that stirring, or mixing, compost too often will slow down the process and others will tell you differently. Many think compost should not be turned sooner then every 3 days while others think every 6 weeks is often enough.
As the digestion process proceeds the bacteria generate heat and each time the material is turned that process is interrupted so instead of days track the core temperature of you compost. If the heat generated is close to 135 degrees the pile can, and should, be turned.
If a compost pile does not reach that 135 degree temp then it needs to be looked at because the material may be too wet, the ratio of C to N may not be close to optimal, the material may be too dry, or there may not be enough volume.

Here is a link that might be useful: Compost in 14 days

    Bookmark   February 9, 2014 at 6:54AM
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robertz6

Yes there is, although few people turn the compost that often. Most of the time new compost folks want to know why their tumbler/pile/composting method is not getting the heat they have heard about. Tumbler advertising may say temps can reach 165F.

But temps will only rise quickly and to high point (say 130F to 165F in the warmer months) if the following conditions are met:
1) pile is big enough to retain heat
2) moisture is in proper range
3) small particle size
4) correct mix of C:N materials (greens to brown)

I have had core (center of pile, that is where the compost thermometer is stuck for the best reading) temp of 165F after two days.

Am I correct is thinking that a Earth Machine is more the slower digester type than the faster tumbler type?

Some people will warn against high temps like 165F. But there is a big difference between a backyard composter with a starting core temp of 165 and a commercial operation with the same 165F.

My bins are 4'by8'by2' high. If I get a starting core temp of 150F in the middle soon after making my compost pile of finely shredded fall leaves mixed with a little grass, all the better. So I turn the pile, and water it a bit. Each day I stick my $20 compost thermometer in, and check the core temp. And I turn and water as necessary. BUT each time it is a bit lower. So after a few week or months, the first stage of composting is thru. But should this be described as compost of 150F? No way. How about a mix of cold and hot compost, that would be more accurate.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2014 at 3:13PM
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robertz6

There is a lot differing info on composting, even between the experts. And the experts are few in number.

I like the Cornell articles they are short and to the point. But I've noticed that even they can differ in some of the numbers on composting temps.

Lets take a look at a quote from the article Kimmsr suggested.

"A pile that is decomposing properly should generate temperatures of 140ð-160ðF at its center."

Quite a generalization. I might rephrase it --

"A backyard compost pile, optimally made in one day in the warmer weather, might reach a high core temp of 140 to 165F."

    Bookmark   February 9, 2014 at 3:36PM
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Lloyd

There is no black/white yes/no answer to the OP question. For every variable, in every method of composting, there would be a corresponding "it depends". It's a mugs game to attempt to come up with a one size fits all answer.

Using the OP's specific method I've had successes with stirring/mixing with every addition to an EM. I didn't necessarily add daily but there would be no issue with mixing it daily if one wanted to. IOW, it doesn't hurt. In fact it may help if moisture is also determined and adjusted if necessary. EMs work very well as a continuous feed system, ergo, psychrophiles need not be an issue.

YMMV

Lloyd

    Bookmark   February 9, 2014 at 3:54PM
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greendreamhome

It sounds like I need a compost thermometer! I'm glad to hear that someone else has an Earth Machine and is having luck with regular stirring.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2014 at 7:30PM
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Lloyd

I'm not sure I would call it regular. It gets mixed and added to maybe every second or third day and only in the summer. Winter up here is not conducive to mixing. IOW, it's frozen solid.

I don't think I've ever taken the temp of the stuff in the EM. That and my smallest tumbler are normally continuous feed so I don't see a purpose to it. Everything else I pretty well keep a loose track of the temperatures I get. Including pictures. Ya, I'm kinda obsessive 'bout compost.

Lloyd

    Bookmark   February 9, 2014 at 8:34PM
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