is my compost ready (with video)

njitgradMay 2, 2014

See link below to a 1 minute video I made of my compost pile today. I started this particular bin in late September and was hoping to use it in a couple of weeks when I plant my veggies in my raised beds.

Does it look ready yet?

If and when it is ready, should I mix it in with the soil in my raised beds or should I only top-dress it?

Another idea that came to mind was running it through a 1/4" screen and mixing the filtered compost into the soil in my raised beds while using the leftover bigger pieces as top dressing.

Lastly, Is adding compost to containers with 5-1-1 mix considered a no-no or at least not necessary?

Any suggestions for a newbie trying to put the fruit of his labor to use!

Here is a link that might be useful: my compost pile on 5/2

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I think it looks like it's in a good stage to be a mulch, meaning that it could go on top of your garden to protect your soil, but not necessarily that it would be composted top-dressing for the garden (though as the growing season continues, that amount would continue to decompose also)

However, that is not to say the same thing as, finished compost would always go on top. Sometimes you will want to till it in and sometimes you won't.

I think of it as, if I haven't planted anything yet, then I generally like to till it in, along with other plant supplements. But if I have planted things already, and don't want to mess up the seed locations or seedlings/plants, then I may just add them on the top. Maybe a very little bit of working in the soil near each plant but I would be very cautious about doing that.

Finished compost will look like some fluffy stuff that you can't really recognized too many things. Leaves, veggies, anything else, will be mostly gone and it is just something like you see in a pile of dirt. It's the reason some people don't like commercial compost that still looks like it has twigs and sticks in it -- because it doesn't look finished. But others say, the compost looks like too much topsoil mixed in, so they feel like they are paying for topsoil with a little bit of compost mixed in.

But you may have particles you can use, and if you're willing to sift through your pile to get them, you can certainly have some useable particles that will add up to a useable amount.

I put an example link for a video. There are others that should show up on the "recommended" listings, so you can catch a few of them if you have time.

Here is a link that might be useful: What compost might look like

    Bookmark   May 2, 2014 at 5:06PM
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IMO your compost is not ready as leaves are still apparent. When there are no identifiable pieces and heating has stopped compost is said to be 'ready'. However, it's certainly ready to be used as mulch (top dress) and is a valuable soil amendment as such.

Only if you have a lot of excess time and energy to waste should you screen compost. I've done it and it's not worth the effort for me. When used as mulch the smaller bits will filter down to soil level where the organisms will quickly utilize them as plant nutrients. The larger pieces will serve as mulch (retaining moisture and keeping the soil cool) and break down more slowly but still be gone in a couple of months or less.

I've never used compost in containers and don't consider it necessary. Might be worth a small experiment tho - just for fun!

Only suggestion I have is to enjoy the process and don't worry too much about it.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2014 at 5:25PM
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johns.coastal.patio(USDA 10b, Sunset 24)

Yes, I have burned off excess time and energy screening compost. I resemble that remark ;-)

    Bookmark   May 2, 2014 at 5:47PM
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nancyjane_gardener(Zone 8ish North of San Francisco in the "real" wine country)

Seems dry. Maybe add some greens (lawn clippings) and water and stir! I'll bet you'll get a steaming heap in no time! Nancy

    Bookmark   May 2, 2014 at 9:28PM
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As you should be able to tell from the above remarks telling if compost is ready by looking at a video is difficult at best.
If there is little of what went in left and if the material has a good rich earth odor, a very pleasant smell, it is finished. The only real way to tell is to handle some, not look at a video.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 6:34AM
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Disclaimer: My standard for finished/mature compost is probably a higher than a lot of people.

Pre-heat freshly mixed materials

Post heat curing and Close-up

Completely mature finished compost and close-up

I would not classify your material as finished/mature compost. It looks more like partially rotted leaves. It has started to compost but it needs more time and probably more N materials. It could certainly be used but there could be issues.


    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 2:11PM
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i agree with adding some greens and moisture. You'd have a steaming hot pile in days that would finish nicely. some people get so snobby with compost. in the end it all ends up in the ground anyways.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 4:18PM
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Well unfortunately I can't add any more lawn clippings because I just spot sprayed my lawn for weeds this weekend. I can still add kitchen scraps and coffee beans.

Regarding the comments about the moisture level...I was quite surprised. I actually thought it was QUITE wet...especially after 4" of rain we got two days earlier. Did you not notice how my glove got wet when I squeezed the compost in my hand? And that was only from the top of the pile. It is much wetter beneath because it does not get the ventilation that the top gets.

pt03, how long did it take you to make the compost in your photos?

This post was edited by njitgrad on Mon, May 5, 14 at 15:39

    Bookmark   May 5, 2014 at 3:36PM
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That was a tumbler batch. The material is normally in that tumbler for about 20-30 days heated to 150-160 and then cured for about 60 days after that. This is just leaves, grass clippings and a bit of kitchen scraps.

When I do windrows, there is also a lot of garden/planter materials. They can run 2-4 months heated and then cured for an entire season after that. It can take from 18-24 months before I let that material leave. Our winter season (when little actual composting happens) can run from mid November to April so that enters into the timing as well.


    Bookmark   May 5, 2014 at 4:10PM
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