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Date and time: Tue, 11 Jan 2022 11:55:17 GMT
When most of the organic materials in the compost pile have decomposed, the pile will start cooling down. If it starts cooling too soon, such as within the first two weeks, sprinkle it with water to moisten the ingredients and encourage the beneficial bacteria to continue the decomposition process. After six to eight weeks, the interior of the pile will be cool or barely warm. The finished compost should be dark and crumbly, resembling rich, loamy soil. Place a tarp over the pile to prevent windblown weed seeds from contaminating the new compost.
A hot compost pile is composed of 2- to 3-inch layers of high-nitrogen green and brown materials. High-nitrogen materials include raw manure; white clover (Trifolium repens, USDA zones 3 through 10) and the foliage of other legumes, such as peas (Pisum sativum). Green materials include fresh grass clippings, coffee grounds and kitchen scraps. Brown materials include dead leaves, garden debris, sawdust, shredded paper and straw. Layer the materials so the pile consists of approximately 25 percent high-nitrogen, 45 percent green and 30 percent brown or woody materials. Your compost pile should measure at least 3 feet square by 3 feet tall to maximize the heating effects of the decomposing materials.
The compost pile should be moist, but not soaking wet, to start the decomposition process. Monitor the pile, measuring the internal temperature daily with a long-stemmed thermometer. When the pile reaches 155 degrees Fahrenheit, turn it to mix the ingredients and then allow it to heat up again. Mix the pile with a shovel or pitchfork whenever the temperature reaches 155 degrees Fahrenheit. Most weed seeds and pathogens die at 135 degrees Fahrenheit.
The fully decomposed manure is used directly on existing flower and vegetable gardens, dug into the soil before the growing season begins, and mixed with perlite and garden soil for planters and raised beds. Although the weed seeds and pathogens in the compost are dead, garden soil also contains weed seeds. As you dig the compost into the soil, the weed seeds are exposed to warmth and moisture, the two main requirements for sprouting. Thus, while you’ve killed the weed seeds in the manure, the garden may still sprout new weeds.
Although cow manure is an excellent source of nitrogen and nutrients for the soil, it is also a source of weed seeds and pathogens, such as Escherichia coli and salmonella. Composting the manure in a hot compost pile kills both the weed seeds and bacteria, making it safe for use in the garden. Despite its being thoroughly decomposed, however, you should always wash your hands carefully after handling any compost or composting materials.
With degrees in fine and commercial art and Spanish, Ruth de Jauregui is an old-school graphic artist, book designer and published author. De Jauregui authored 50 Fabulous Tomatoes for Your Garden, available as an ebook. She enthusiastically pursues creative and community interests, including gardening, home improvement and social issues.
Building a Compost Pile
Turn the pile every three days with a spading fork. Measure the temperature at the center of the pile when you turn it. Add chicken manure, blood meal or grass clippings if the temperature does not go above 120 degrees Fahrenheit during the first week. Replace the tarp covering the pile after turning.
Manure is one of the best natural fertilizers available. However, it may contain weed seeds that will cover the garden with weeds if they are not killed. Composting the manure can kill the weed seeds and make the manure safer to use. The number of seeds that die depends on weed species, temperature, moisture and time. More seeds die at higher temperatures and at about 35 percent moisture, which is about as damp as a wrung-out sponge.
Pile manure so the pile is at least 4 feet by 4 feet by 4 feet, either in a compost bin or directly on the ground. Water the pile. Cover with a tarp.
Water the compost if the center of the pile is crumbly and does not stick together when you squeeze it. Continue turning regularly as long as the pile continues to heat up. Spread the composted manure on your garden or landscape when it is dark, even-textured and looks like soil.