When I first started my compost for this compost-along, things got real smelly real fast. I put so many activators in there my husband remarked it smelled like the circus was in town, IN our yard. He was right. It was rank. I’ve never had a stinky compost pile before, but I’ve also never had a compost pile which heated up so much, decomposed so quickly, and finished so beautifully before, either. I’d never kept things as moist as they needed to be, never turned it so regularly, and never beefed it up with so much rich stuff.
The truly stinky ingredient was the stale dog food I used. If I had really close neighbors I would never add the dog food again. In fact, I don’t think I will ever add dog food to compost again anyway. Boy, did it heat up, though. Along with some horse manure, it created that “circus” effect my husband referred to.
BUT, it only lasted for about a week, and it was only particularly pungent right after it was turned.
Now, it is completely stink-free. It smells like healthy woodland dirt, earthy and mild.
All of which is leading to my point for today:
How do you know when your compost is “Done”?
- It’s not stinky, but smells earthy
- It isn’t heating up anymore
- It is dark in color, friable, and individual pieces are less distinct, although you can still have some larger pieces
If you want your compost at this point to be very uniform, you can put it through a compost sifter, or if you’re fine with some chunks, you can leave them in and go ahead and use the compost as is.
So, this week, turn your compost again, add water if needed, and evaluate it. Give it a good sniff, too. It may be done now, or it may take a few more weeks. Regardless, it will only get better with a bit more time, as it will give it the opportunity to develop more beneficial fungi and break down the larger pieces.