The optimal temperature for compost to process the right way is around 160F°. But, temps can vary depending on internal and external conditions. For composting to work, piles will need to reach a high temperature. But can the mixture get TOO hot?
Yes, compost can get too hot!
If temperatures rise above 160F°, the compost will become anaerobic, which means the temperature will kill the beneficial microbes that make high-quality compost. Heat destroys pathogens and weed seeds though, so you don’t want your piles to get TOO cold.
The decomposition process can produce methane and some pretty bad odors, as well as (rarely) spontaneously combust, but these aren’t the biggest issues. The feedstock will still break down and decompose, but it won’t be as nutrient-rich, if at all. That means wasted time and ingredients.
Reducing the temperature of your compost piles
CN ratio, moisture content, pH, and aeration are all important aspects of the composting process that can affect the temperature. Keep this in mind every step of the way.
If compost gets too hot, you can lower the temperature by adding more carbon-rich materials. For example, leaves or hay will help keep piles cooler and moist, while bark chips tend to raise temperatures. Here are some examples of other ingredients that can affect the temperature of the mixture.
- Grass clippings
- Vegetable scraps
- Corn gluten
- Bone meal
- Wood shavings
Remember, to compost successfully, it’s important to keep piles moist and well-aerated. This will help the temperatures stay at the right level so you can create a high-quality product.
Turning your compost piles
You can turn piles more regularly to help distribute the heat throughout the mixture so it doesn’t get too hot in any one spot. You will need a turner whether or not your piles are heating up too much during the active decomposition of organic material. If they are not getting enough oxygen, that could cause overheating inside the mixture and a turner can help with this too.
The composting process is simple in theory, but it can be complicated, especially when you’re working with large quantities. It’s easy to get frustrated if your compost piles aren’t holding the right temps. But, by adding the right ingredients, watching all important factors, and using a turner, you can get great quality compost! Here are some tips for turning your piles that will help you stay on track.
- Set up a schedule for turning the piles. You can turn a few times a week, but at least once a week.
- Monitor them for temperature changes that may indicate they are getting too hot or not being aerated enough.
- Keep ingredients on hand if possible to make changes as needed. Remember to watch the carbon-to-nitrogen ratio.
- You can turn more often within the first ten to fifteen days to create more air pockets and reduce moisture.
Compost turners for large-scale operations
If you are looking for a custom compost turner for your commercial composting operation, the experts at SCARAB International can help. We understand that each operation is unique, so we provide a variety of New, Used, and Refurbished turners as well as Leasing options. Call us at 806.883.7621 to learn more!