I had to take a break from the compost piles yesterday as I was not feeling good so I did not get to turn them on their regular schedule. Since this is the end of the cycle for the main pile skipping a day does not make a difference anyway. I am not trying to heat the main pile up anymore I am just waiting for it to drop out of the Active temperature range to start its slow decomposition cycle.
I did check the temperatures on the piles each day, and on both Monday and Tuesday, the main pile was running 126 degrees . . .
The second pile with all of the wood shavings continued to run at 165 degrees for both days . . .
Today the main pile had dropped to 118 degrees, so it is slowly coming out of the thermophilic decomposition phase.
The second pile was still cooking away at 161 degrees.
Both piles were getting extremely dry. Moisture is very hard to control in a compost pile in Hawaii because of the summer heat, especially with compost piles made from grass clippings as I explained the other day. Without having leaves or other material like that to act as a sponge to hold onto the water within the pile, they tend to feel wetter than they actually are when you first wet them down, but they dry out quickly.
I decided today to soak them extra heavy since we did not get the rain that we were expecting to keep the humidity level high on them and keep them from drying out as fast. I ended up adding a full 25 gallons of chlorine-free water to the piles today which with my DIY 25-gallon Compost Tea Brewer is all I am able to make at a time. Just incase I need more water for them later I went ahead and filled the tea brewer back up with fresh water and have it bubbling away again to remove the chlorine for another batch.
I turned the second pile making sure it was well saturated in layers again as I rebuilt the pile. That pile is looking good and the areas that were still moist are really starting to darken up nicely. Neither pile showed any signs of anaerobic decomposition so there is no ammonia odors. Everything smells clean and earthy as it should.
I did not however turn the main pile. I decided to treat that one a little differently this time since I am not trying to build the heat back up in it. Instead I thoroughly soaked the pile back down, and then I forked through the pile making sure that it remained loose and aerated inside
This pile is no longer matting down into a solid clump when it gets wet as the second pile does, so all I have to do on this one now is pierce the pile with the bedding fork all over and twist the fork slightly to allow air inside. The whole pile is still nice and loose, even after soaking it down thoroughly.
The majority of this pile is finished, but there are still some larger leaf material and a few stems that have not fully broken down yet. They have softened up and are spongy now instead of being woody, so they are well on their way to decomposition.
This weekend I am planning on sifting through this pile and running all material that does not go through the sifter through the shredder to help break it down farther. Then I will cover this pile up and allow to slowly mature for the next few months until I am ready to use it in the new garden.
Well, that was what it is like to run an "Active Compost Pile" or "Hot Compost Pile" from beginning to end throughout its lifecycle. Everything that I do to the pile now is just optional and most people don't worry about doing all the extra work to the piles, but for those who are interested in the extras that I do to my compost piles and want to see those extra steps, from time to time I will post an update with each step that I do, starting with the initial sifting and shredding this weekend.
I will be testing out and reviewing a new rolling garden sifter that I received on this pile this weekend, so that should be interesting. Most of the time I wouldn't bother with sifting it now as I will be sifting it again later before I use it, but I decided that going ahead and doing a sifting of it now would give me a chance to check out the sifter and see what I thought about it. So stay tuned for that posting this weekend.
Until Next Time,
Aloha & 73