What temperature to stop composting?

raymadiganSeptember 3, 2010

I have a compost bin that I monitor the temperature of on a regular basis. I was wondering at what temperature it is ok to remove the compost to start a new pile. If I understand correctly, composting occurs between 150F and 110F. Does this mean it is no longer hot at 110F. My pile is at 100F and I would like to use it and start a new pile.

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May I ask what temperature you achieved, for how long and did the pile get mixed at all? I guess while I'm at it, are there any higher risk materials in there (seeds, diseased plants, food etc.) and what do you intend to "use" the compost for?

Heat isn't necessary and determining the 'doneness' of compost by heat alone is not usually done. There are several "phases" of composting, high heat (thermophilic) being just one.


    Bookmark   September 3, 2010 at 6:01PM
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Composting occurs at most any temperature above freezing, although much slower at colder temperatures. There are several stages of thermophilic bacteria that generate those higher temperatures, and maybe you would want your compost to hold at say 135 degrees for a few days for a valid reason but generally when the temperatures of your compost reach those hieghts it is time to turn the pile.
Turning does not mean stopping the composting activity, that will only happen when there is no more raw material to be digested.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2010 at 7:30AM
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Compost is ready to use when is smells earthy and the ingredients are unrecongizable. Color should be very dark brown, almost black.

Temp. is not a very good measurement of compost being finished or ready for use. Many experts suggest a 'curing' or waiting time after compost is finished.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2010 at 5:03PM
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Well, all interesting responses.

I have a system I am building where the pile doesn't need turning. The pile was at about 150F for about 5 days and the temperature dropped to 100F after about 40 days. It may have happened faster but I didn't have enough water in the pile.

It turns out that the pile dropped to about 85F so I figured it was close to ambient temperature and there was no more material to burn and was finished. What I really want to know is when is the pile considered not hot and safe to put into the landscape.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2010 at 7:47PM
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That would be when the compost does not feel hot to you and smells like good, rich earth.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2010 at 6:12AM
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