Composting 201

Asked June 6, 2019, 8:11 PM EDT

I finally got the ratios correct in my compost and the temps soared to 140F. When the temp dropped to 100F I turned the pile and added a little water in layers. Then the pile stopped heating up. After almost 2 weeks I decided to turn it again and add more fresh grass clippings. The pile temp then rose to 120F. What should I be doing to avoid adding grass clippings every 2 weeks? This process has not been recommended by the experts up to this point. It acts like all the nitrogen got used up. Should I be turning the pile sooner? At what point should I be turning the pile?

Charles County Maryland

1 Response

Hi- it's great that you are monitoring temperature and tweaking the process to hasten decomposition. As you can probably see, backyard composting is not an exact science. We don't know the size of your pile or the other materials that you have added. The smaller the particles, generally, the more quickly they will break down. Turning a 1 cubic ft. pile that has just been created with a 50:50 mixture of high carbon and high nitrogen material will benefit from turning every 2-3 weeks until the pile is fairly homogeneous in color and texture, earthy smelling, and does not heat up further. At that point it can be used as a mulch or incorporated into soil.

If your pile is loaded with high carbon material, the addition a high nitrogen fertilizer or grass clippings can hasten the breakdown process.
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