Welcome to Day 27 of our Active Composting series where we follow along with the life cycle of a compost pile from beginning to end.
When I checked on the piles yesterday the main pile was running at 135 degrees . . .
and the second experimental pile was running at 169 degrees.
Because the Hawaii weather has been so hot lately both piles were getting quite dry so I gave each of them 2-gallons of water to get them by until today when I turned and watered them on their regular schedule.
Today the main pile had dropped to about 132 degrees.
The second pile had dropped to about 165 degrees. I noticed that almost all of the sawdust and wood shavings that I had started this pile with were already gone so I added about another pound of shavings to the pile as I turned and soaked it back down.
Both piles were still extremely dry today so I watered them down thoroughly in layers just as if I were building a new pile. When the major component of a compost pile is grass it is more difficult to wet a pile down properly because the pieces of grass want to interact with each other to form a waterproof layer to shed water off of the pile, similar to how a grass thatched roof works. As water is sprayed onto the top of the pile you can see it running off the pile rather quickly, yet is not soaking down into the pile very deep.
By soaking the pile down in layers I am able to get more water inside the pile as the pile is being turned and aerated.
In a few more days once the thermophilic stage of the decomposition has completed and the temperature cools down below the Active Compost temperature range I will be screening the compost to separate out the larger pieces and running them through the chipper/shredder to break them down a little more and adding them back into the pile. I will then be adding a lot more wood shavings to the pile that I will have soaked in a fungal inoculant for a few days beforehand to give the pile a boost in its changeover from the fast bacterial decomposition state that the pile is in now to a slow fungal decomposition state. This is also where the compost will turn from it's now medium brown color over to a richer dark brown color which is caused by the fungal decomposition action.
Remember, compost should never be black, compost should be about the same dark brown color as a 70% chocolate candy bar. If compost is black, that is no longer compost, that is merely decomposed biological material, but it is not compost. It does not contain the micro-organisms that are required for it to be compost. Dark black compost is normally what you get when you buy compost in a bag that was commercially made. It makes great mulch to put on the top of your beds, but it is NOT compost and contains nothing beneficial for your plants. Compost that went anaerobic turns black. Compost that went anaerobic is useless because it only contains bacteria, it contains no aerobic fungal growth at all. Aerobic fungal growth is absolutely mandatory for your plants, unless you want to keep adding inorganic fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides on your plants.
For the final fungal stage of the compost I combine all of the completed Active Compost piles together into one pile. This also helps to blend the nutrients from one pile into the other as they continue their final breakdown and resting period together.
By utilizing both forms of decomposition I am able to get the finished compost loaded with even more plant ready nutrition. It is at this point that I also load the compost up with additional minerals and nutrients that a completely plant based compost like this one that does not use manure of any kind is normally lacking in. That way I have a more balanced finished compost when it is ready to be used on the garden.
Since it is so late in the year and it is almost the hottest point of the year I have decided not to try to replant a garden this year. I will just let the finished compost rest until next spring when I will be ready to start a new garden again. That will give it a good 7 months to rest and the fungi will have a good long time to break everything down really well and get it ready.
Until Next Time,
Aloha & 73