Let’s get the obvious question out of the way first. Do you need a compost thermometer?
And the answer (drum roll please) is not if you’re composting at home.
If you’re a commercial compost maker, then perhaps you have a need for one but then again, you already know that.
Home Gardeners Need To Know…
If you’re a home gardener, here’s what you need to know.
If the compost pile is large enough, (roughly 4x4x4 feet) and is filled up at one time with compost-ready material, then it will start to heat up.
A compost thermometer looks like an oven thermometer
It will take several weeks to do this. At the two week mark after building the pile, lift it up and see if it is hot inside. If you can comfortably lay your hand on the hot material, you’re fine. If your hand is too hot for comfort you’re getting to the point of good composting.
Put the layers back down and walk away.
As soon as the pile starts to cool down or you see some crystallization starting to form (white powder – resembling ash) then you know it is time to turn that pile as the heat has done its thing.
If you’re using one of the smaller home composters that don’t get a hot composting system going, then you really don’t require one at all because there will be nothing to measure.
Doug’s Summary Notes
Use your hand as the compost thermometer.
- If your hand is comfortably warm – the pile is either beginning to compost or finishing off composting.
- If your hand is too hot – the pile is in full compost mode.
- If it’s not hot at all, then you have another issue to deal with and that’s the carbon:nitrogen ratio or brown:green ratio.