There are so many answers to this question. Turning a compost pile just once will do a whole lot more than not turning it at all. If you’re a total enthusiast, then, turning it every 2 or 3 days will encourage rapid composting but any more than that won’t do any more for you.
If you have a compost pile that’s been sat there doing nothing for a while and you then turn it over, this will open up the mass of rotting material enough to allow air to get in. The response from this will begin almost immediately. In some cases you may see steam rising.
This is a good sign. It shows that there is ‘energy’ in the mixture. This will be the carbon ‘browns’ getting to work. There has to be enough of this to balance the nitrate-rich ‘greens’ that will accumulate in the pile.
It will depend on the contents of your compost pile but the first time you turn your compost pile may be enough. After this first major disruption, that allows air into the mass, the heap as a whole will begin to break down and the structure of the heap will change.
As a result it’s quite possible that air will continue to find its way in without further movement. You may not need to turn it again. This is often so if your compost pile is just a heap of lawn clippings. Any material that is fibrous, like lawn clippings or dead leaves, tends to stay open as a structure. This will allow air to continue to find a way into the mass without the need for further agitation from turning the pile over.
Do I need to turn a compost pile at all?
No. Any organic material will rot down over time. If you are accumulating a heap or gradually filling a bin, then you can just leave it to take as long as it wants to take to turn into compost. I suspect that most people end up doing this because of busy lives and an unwillingness to dig over a heap of rotting material, especially if there may be a bit of a smell.
Leaving it to nature, any kitchen or garden waste will rot down completely. You just have to accept that it will take 1 to 2 years to convert into the black and crumbly material that we all look for when we make compost
What difference will a compost tumbler make?
Compost tumblers are all about turning compost. If you have any type of compost tumbler, you can know that whatever kitchen or garden waste that you load in, it will be subjected to regular turning and the agitation that goes with it.
As for how often a compost tumbler should be turned, you don’t need to keep on at it. You may feel the need to turn it more regularly than is necessary when it’s new but, when the novelty wears off, you will find that turning it once a week will be enough to cause sufficient agitation.
With the Rolypig composter, you will find that you only need to roll it when it becomes difficult to push any more feed-waste in at the mouth. Quite often you will only need to roll it for half a revolution to make space at the mouth end and this will happen only once every couple of weeks.
The kitchen waste that goes into a Rolypig takes about 16 to 20 weeks to work its way from the mouth end to the rear end. It won’t be a problem if it takes longer.
By the time it comes out it’s completely decomposed into usable compost. The amount of turning is minimal. There isn’t much effort required with the Rolypig composter and, because it sits directly on the ground, there is an ample opportunity for worms to migrate in, multiply and do their thing.
What do you do if the compost pile smells when you turn it?
You may encounter a bit of a whiff when you turn a compost pile. This is all part of the fun. If it smells horrendously and there are a significant number of flies around it, then, this indicates that you need to review how you make compost. The first thing to think about is to look at the mixture of ingredients that you are putting in. If you have too much ‘green’ material and not enough ‘browns’, then there will be too much nitrate and not enough carbon.
The bad smell will always happen if you have too much nitrate ‘greens’. When this happens the mixture won’t progress to a finished compost in the short term. It will get there eventually because anything organic will rot down completely into compost in the fullness of time regardless of how bad you may be at making compost. Just by leaving it alone and doing nothing, it will get there but you could almost add another full year to the time-scale.
You can simply correct this by adding more shredded paper, cardboard or, if you can get them, dead leaves. This will absorb surplus moisture that excessive ‘green’ material tends to generate. If the overall mixture is just damp rather than soaking wet, then, it will rot down more efficiently. The smell will be much reduced and there won’t be so many flies.
The other thing that i would be thinking about doing is to add hydrated white-lime. This is a must for any composting system. It will neutralize the acids that tend to generate smells and subsequently will allow for decomposition to happen more readily.
So, to sum up, you can turn your compost pile as often as you want but you have to be mindful that the microbes will take the time that they need to do their stuff. They aren’t going to go any faster for you because you keep turning the pile over or roll the compost tumbler every time you walk past it.
Study the compost as it’s forming. If it looks like it’s moving along, then, leave it alone but if you get the feeling that it could do with turning over, get in there and move it.
Can you turn a compost pile too much? No has to be the answer to this. If you turn a compost pile every day, you can be sure that it will become usable compost in double-quick time but you must ask; is this practical? Compost takes the time that it needs to form, even if you turn it every day. There is an argument for building up a pile as big as you want it to be, then leave it for a month or two, then turn it over once. Then, leave it. Don’t touch it again until time has done its thing. This will make compost. While this is happening you can be building another pile. This is slower but much less work.
When should you start a compost pile? You can start a compost pile at any time. The thing is, you don’t need very much material to start making compost. We all have organic waste generated from the kitchen and this is ongoing. The small contribution that you make at the starting of a compost pile will soon become lost underneath more and more organic waste material.