Welcome to Day 13 of the step-by-step Active Composting series. I checked the temperatures in the piles yesterday and both piles were holding their temperatures fine. Pile #1 was holding at 145 degrees . . .
and Pile #2 was right on 160 degrees.
Since both piles were holding their temperatures and their moisture levels were fine I decided not to turn them yesterday but to just let them keep cooking away.
Today when I checked them again I saw that Pile #1 had dropped slightly to 141 degrees . . .
When I checked Pile #2 I noticed that it is still holding right on 160 degrees.
Temperature drop in a pile is an indicator that oxygen within the pile is becoming depleted and that it is time to turn the pile to reinvigorate the pile again by getting fresh oxygen inside it. So we will go ahead and turn Pile #1 today and take a look at what is going on inside it.
As you can see the material is breaking down nicely. It is what I would classify a Compost Mulch at this state. If you needed to, you could use it as a top dressing right now, but that is not what we are going for. We are going for rich biological material to create the soil for new raised garden beds, so we need this material broken down more so that it can be buried in the soil instead of just being placed on top of it.
The moisture level of the both piles is perfect. If you pick up a handful of the material and squeeze, it should hold together, but there should be no water dripping out of your hand.
Perfect moisture level. When the material does this, that means the moisture content is around 55-60% which is right where we want it to stay. I would say this one is about 55% and right on the money.
Since the temperature of Pile #2 is holding at 160 degrees and the moisture level is right I decided not to turn that pile again today. I don't want to take a chance on getting it too hot again so I am just going to let that one continue to cook inside.
Remember Pile #2 is 2 days behind Pile #1, so when we turn it next time hopefully we will start to see some noticeable decomposition happening in it like we are seeing in Pile #1.
In case someone noticed in the photos above, yes, I did change out thermometers since two days ago. I have been testing several brands and I found that the EcoCycle composting thermometers tended to be the most accurate, so I switched all of my thermometers over to EcoCycle brand.
Thermometers being a degree or two different is not uncommon, and is not really an issue, but my ADHD will just not accept that. I verify all of my thermometers and recalibrate them weekly so that when I am taking temperature readings, I know they are the most accurate they can possibly be.
Although I am only showing a photo of one thermometer as I check the temperature of a pile, I am actually checking each pile with 3 long stem thermometers to check the internal temperature of the core of the pile, 2 short stem thermometers to check its temperature at about 6 inches deep, and then verifying with a laser thermometer as I dig into the pile to turn it. Even though my compost piles are being done here at home I am following the exact same safety and quality standards that have been set for commercial composting systems.
Time to cover them back up with the tarp and let them continue to cook.
Until Next Time,
Aloha & 73