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How to Know When Compost Is Done

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compost readiness test
how to speed things up

ALSO SEE:
troubleshooting outdoor composting
using your compost
compost science


Compost Readiness Test

You can make compost in as little as three months, or the process could take over a year. When outdoor temperatures are warm, microbial activity increases, speeding up the decomposition process. In winter things slow down, but you can still add materials.

The simplest way to tell if your compost is mature - ready to use - is the "bag test." Put a handful of compost into a zip-lock bag and leave it sealed for a week or so. Then open the bag and smell it. If you detect an ammonia or sour odor, the microorganisms are still at work and you need to let your compost finish curing. Test it again in a week.

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How To Speed Things Up 

In general, the following measures will speed up the composting process:

  1. Add an equal proportion (by volume) of "browns" and "greens".
  2. Keep proper moisture levels.
  3. Turn your pile to add air (oxygen).
  4. Cut up large items such as houseplants, branches, or grapefruit rinds before you add them to your pile.

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