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#121 - Step-By-Step Active Composting - Day 11

Welcome to Day 11 of my Active Compost series where I walk you step-by-step through a full compost cycle.

After checking the temperatures of the piles yesterday I decided not to turn the piles as they were all holding good temperatures and I did not want to disturb that decomposition process that was taking place within them.

Pile #1 was showing to be holding 143 degrees

Pile #2 showed to be 160 degrees

and Pile #3, the one that I broke off of Pile #2 was showing to be 150 degrees.

Since all of the piles were within the proper temperature range I decided to wait and give them an extra day before I aerated them again.

Today when I checked the piles I saw that Pile #1 had dropped a little to 135 degrees. I do not want it to drop any lower than that, and I want to try to keep it above the 140 degree mark for as long as I possibly can.

Pile #2 has dropped just a little bit to 157 degrees

Pile #3 has dropped to 145 degrees

Since all of the piles are showing a drop in their temperatures, that is an indicator that it is time to turn the piles over to get more oxygen inside them.

As the decomposition process takes place, heat is built up in the pile from all of the activity of the bacteria and microbes working hard to break the material down in the aerobic environment. As the oxygen level starts to fall the bacteria and microbes slow down their work so the temperature starts to come down. To get the temperature back up, all we have to do is turn the pile to reintroduce oxygen to the center of the pile again.

As I turned the piles over I noticed that Pile #1 was breaking down very nicely. Except for the large plant material that did not get chopped up before it was put in there, everything else is starting to look very much like soil. It is getting very dark and has a rich earthy smell to it like the ground of a forrest after a rain. That is the exact smell that we look for when we are composting. It is a good sign that everything is working just as it should.

I am very pleased with this pile and it is farther along in its decomposition than I expected after only 11 days.

I will still have to break the larger plant material from the Heliconia and Ti leaves but even their thick stems that were very hard are now very spongy and tear apart in my hands. Even what remains of the thinner tree branches from the citrus cuttings are very spongy and fall apart in my hands.

This compost is turning into a rich loam very nicely and is turning out to be one of the best composts I have had in a couple years. I can't wait to use this in a garden bed. It will make some very happy plants.

The majority of the grass that was in this pile is no longer identifiable as grass and the food scraps I added 2 days ago has completely vanished. I will not be adding food scraps to the compost piles anymore since I have ordered a new vermicompost system. I will be using the food scraps to feed the worms with instead.

Since both Pile #2 and Pile #3 are acting right once again I decided to try to merge them back together into their original pile. I am trying to stay to using a 3 bin system and if I have a pile in all three bins it makes turning piles very difficult because I do not have an empty bin to turn the pile into. So I have to pull the pile out of the bin, and then turn it as I put it back into the bin that I took it out of. Basically this is causing double the work for me. By having an empty bin I simply turn the pile from one bin into the empty bin, much easier and faster to complete.

I will have to monitor its temperature though to make sure that it does not try to go back into the 170 degree range again. This Pile has been my "Problem Child" since I started it 9 days ago. This pile was the first pile that I attempted to use the Compost Starter on, so I do not know if that had anything to do with it or not, I can only assume that it did because I have never had a pile of this size that kept climbing into the 170 degree range before and that was the only thing that was drastically different about this pile.

I am seeing more grey coloring on the grass in this pile but it is all still recognizable as grass clippings so far.

I have enough grass clippings to start another pile with but right now I do not have room for one so I have laid it out next to my compost bins in a thinner pile of about 6 inches tall so that it can dry out for now but not create any heat from decomposition. It was extremely wet, so if I would have just put it in a pile or left it in the bags that it was in, I would have had an anaerobic compost mess on my hands with it.

It looks like we may have some rain coming so hopefully that will mean the neighbors will wait another few days before they start calling me with more grass clippings for me to pick up. Although the rain also means I will get bombarded with grass clippings afterward from all the new growth so I need to get ready for that. I may just have to start a new pile next to my bins but outside of them and see how that goes.

Well, everything is turned, wetted back down, and covered back up with the tarp to protect it from the rain so that's it on the piles for today.

Until Next Time,

Aloha & 73


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