Smokin' Hot Compost

Saturday’s community garden tour at Dean Spader’s (where we got to watch the compost thermometer gauge rise when he stuck it in his gorgeous piles) gave me the gumption I needed to re-assemble my pile into something that, while it may not smoke, will likely steam in the cool morning air.

The pile I started with in the central garden was a really high-carbon stack–mostly just a heap of old broccoli stalks and pepper plants and okra stems from clean up this spring.  Gradually I’ve been adding grass clippings and weedings–Canada thistle, lamb’s quarter, the arugula I pulled today to make way for hot pepper plants in that bed.

Today I did a mass of weeding (and pulling the black Spanish radishes–they must be a fall radish because they didn’t form usable roots before bolting), and I also had a delivery of fresh, high-nitrogen rabbit manure and bedding, so it was time to re-build the pile with layers of broken-up stalks and stems, manure and bedding, and green matter.

Once the thing was back together in a sort of presentable shape (about 4x4x8 feet long), I took the hose to it and soaked the whole thing down.  I can’t imagine that thing won’t heat up this time–that rabbit bedding practically burned my nostrils with all the fresh urine in it.

Dean did advise us to keep our compost within a certain temperature range–too hot a pile can kill off beneficial organisms.  I didn’t make the bedding layers too thick (probably not thick enough, really), so I don’t think it’ll be a huge problem–but at this point I’m just trying to get better at “eyeballing” the correct ratio of browns to greens.

I would love to get out to the garden early in the morning sometime in the next few days to see if I can’t get an image of steam emanating from the pile, but it may be difficult for me to get my son going that early.  I’ll have to bring my thermometer out and get an image of the reading instead.


2 responses

  1. We had a compost pile in Alaska. It was really neat in the Fall (usually September 10) to see the steam rise off of the compost pile and the snow melt off the top.

  2. Nice! My newly-turned pile was heating up today–cool outside, but as far in the pile as I could stick my soil thermometer, it was getting toward 90 degrees.

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