First Turn Completed
Today I checked the compost pile and found that the temperature had dropped from the 140 degrees it was at for a few days, down to 110. I may have been a bit hasty, but this was enough for me to decide to go ahead and turn the pile for the first time.
When you are hot composting like I am trying to do to get a flush of fresh compost here to start the growing season, the more you turn the pile the faster you end up with finished compost. It is a great way to deal with the flush of spring weeds, and gets you a great soil amendment for your gardens and flower beds. Turning the pile adds an all important ingredient to the equation, and that is oxygen. The types of bacteria that we want breaking down our piles do best in oxygen rich environments. These prevents the pile from going anaerobic, which is can only happen when there is a lack of oxygen and usually results in a stinky, smelly mess.
From here on out the process is pretty simple. When its time to turn, move the entire pile from one bay into the other, which is why this end of the composting area is open like it is with two bays facing each other. When you turn the pile you want to try and move the material from the outside of the pile into the middle as much as possible, as this is where the majority of the composting action is taking place.
Moisture is another essential element in the process, and all that heat can dry out the interior of your pile, so adding some water along the way helps keep things going. I simply move a bit of material over to the new location, hit it quickly with the hose, and then pile on more. You don't want to over saturate it, but there needs to be moisture for the process to work. I noticed that a fair amount of the chicken bedding I added in the beginning was still fairly dry. The additional water and general mixing of everything should help take care of this.
Two great signs that I observed today were the heat in the middle of the pile.... at times the stuff I was turning over was actually steaming it was so hot, and what I will call white mold. I am sure there is some technical name for it, but when I turn a pile and I find this white substance on stuff on the inside, I know we have a good thing going. Whatever it is, it seems to really like the carbon rich material as that is what I seem to notice it on the most. I knew from the heating observed by the thermometer that we were already doing great, but it is still nice to see the good stuff happening on the inside.
Now that the pile is turned, in just a day or two we should see some raising temperatures. I won't be at all surprised to find that this turning really gets this pile heating up. Lots of mixing of the layers happened today, which will get things going like crazy in my experience. I will continue to post updates along the way and do my best to get these posts all linked together.
If you are into this sort of thing, there is more information throughout the posts on this blog. We also have some info over at our website which you can view here. There is loads of information about gardening, a whole section on animals and composting, and even some ideas about home remodeling! Come check it out. We'll keep posting here on the blog, and do our best to continue to add more content to the website as well.