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Turning and Harvesting Hot Compost


March 21, 2020

I live in the North Valley and started a hot compost pile last August. It is fully enclosed with a lid and I keep a black plastic bag on the top to help keep the moisture in - I keep it plenty moist and add to it every few days - the pile keeps going down so I assume things are breaking down. My question to you - I have never turned the pile - I do add sticks and wood chips to create air pockets but most places I’ve read including the ABQ city website suggests turning the pile 3 times a month. I’ve also read since we live in the desert you don’t have to turn it because it will lose moisture. Any thoughts? I’m hoping to harvest in May. Also, do you have to wait two weeks before using the humis? Hoping to add to my fruit trees. Thanks for any info you might have.


Answer by JZ: Good for you.  Your description of your efforts would be, at this point in time - cold /cool static, dump & run composting, which is fine. Turning organic material is not required for  decomposition to occur as you may observe in your current setup, as long as you continue to bulk as you build for convective air flow and maintain moisture all will be fine. If you were to turn it, then you could sprinkle water to add moisture - if needed.  What you are doing now is described  under Desert Composting under Composting Info on our website.

In May you could harvest the finished humus, you may sift it, if you like or use it as it is as a top dressing around your fruit trees, in which case you would not have to “cure” the finished product.   Hope this is helpful.

Answer by RR: One thing to note is that your finished compost will be at the bottom of your pile. If you keep adding material, the new stuff will not be decomposed by May. That’s OK though, especially if you screen your compost, you can just use the unfinished material to start a new pile.

I know JZ and I both have an enclosed plastic composter that allows us to do exactly as you have been doing, dump and run.  But it has a sliding door near the bottom that allows you to harvest just the finished compost without having to tear your whole pile apart. Enjoy your finished compost in May, and thanks for composting!

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