It's finally warm enough this year to get my vegetable garden started and get digging in the dirt. Like many of you I have a homemade compost pile. Actually I have three compost piles. Two outside and a worm bin in my kitchen. One thing I discovered is that you can never have too much compost. Compost is a great addition to your soil. It adds nutrients and improves soil structure. The tricky thing about compost is, how do you know when it's ready to use?
When compost is ready it will have the following qualities
- dark and fluffy
- smell earthy
- temperature of the compost should be the same as the outside air temperature
- you should see earthworms and insects
- The original material should not be recognizable except for sticks and twigs
If your compost is not ready to use it may have the following qualities
- rotting food or mold present
- bad smell or ammonia-type smell
- hot temperature
If you add compost that isn't ready to your garden it can cause problems. It may "burn" your plants and add unwanted bacteria into your garden. In general it can take 3-6 months for your compost pile to breakdown and be ready for use.
A simple way to test your compost is place a small amount in a plastic bag and take a whiff. Put the bag of compost in a drawer and after a week take the bag out again and smell it. If should smell the same as when you first put it in the drawer. If it smells bad then it's not ready yet.
Do you have any composting tips? Share in the comments!