How long before a new pile warms?

The International Compost Sanitation Forum and Message Board: General Composting Issues: How long before a new pile warms?
Author: Carfree Family
Wednesday, November 16, 2005 - 9:50 am
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We've been composting humanure for about two weeks and have been adding it on top of our old compost pile, (which was mostly kitchen waste and ashes with no straw. I did put a base of straw down on top of the old compost).

Our pile is about 3 by 3 by 2 now. Our composting thermometer arrived. There is one spot in the center of the pile that is at 100 degrees. The rest ranges between 60 and 90 degrees.

When do the temperatures really start climbing? The ambient temperature is beginning to dip below freezing in the night, but still climbing into the fifties in the daytime.

I'm worried that I'm not managing the pile well enough, and I'll be left with a pile of iffy compost.

Author: admin
Wednesday, November 16, 2005 - 1:07 pm
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Keep the thermometer in the center, fully inserted, and leave it in that spot, removing it only to add compost material. That will give you an indication of the degree of thermophilic activity and whether it is increasing or decreasing. You cannot gauge the development of thermophilic activity by probing various parts of the pile. The outside edges, for example, will never heat up. Add your compost to the center of the pile in a depression that you dig for that purpose when adding material. You may experience a cooling of the pile during the winter months, then a rise of temperature in the spring.

Author: TCLynx
Thursday, January 19, 2006 - 7:19 pm
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I think my compost heated up a day or so after adding the 2nd bucket. I don't know exactly how hot it got because I'm still waiting for the thermomiter to arrive. It was warm enough for me to notice while digging the hole with a two foot long hand fork.

Author: John Heckham
Sunday, April 09, 2006 - 12:06 pm
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I will be starting this process soon. A qucik question...

If it takes a few days for the temp to increase once the bucket's contents are added to the compost pile, is there no increase in temp in the bucket during the week or so that the daily deposits are made?!?!

Author: Joe Jenkins
Monday, April 10, 2006 - 3:21 pm
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You must achieve a "critical mass" before the thermophilic organisms proliferate enough to start raising the temperatures of the organic material. This could take 2-6 weeks in a new compost bin, but is not likely to occur in a toilet receptacle.

Author: TCLynx
Tuesday, April 11, 2006 - 9:06 pm
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I have noticed a bucket being kinda warm when emptying it (we added some cooking oil and kitchen scraps right into the bucket along with normal deposits) but not hot.

I think good variety of materials in the compost can help. We use mix of shredded junk mail and sawdust for cover and the kitchen scraps and cooking oil go right into the bucket. Tends to fill up fast that way but it seems to get cooking real fast. We use leaves, palm leaves, hay or straw outside to cover in the bin. Our weather is warm (Florida) so winter doesn't slow things down for us.

Author: admin
Friday, April 14, 2006 - 12:19 pm
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Speaking of temperatures, I recently bought 3 new Reotemp "compost" thermometers to take to Mongolia in a couple weeks. I took one out of the package and put it in my new compost pile at my business location where I'm composting humanure with planer shavings. After a week or so it fogged up to the point where I couldn't read it. This is the new thermometer with the green zone showing you when your compost is hot (110 degrees F to 130 degrees F).

So I took the other two out of their packages and stuck them in my 27 year-old home humanure compost pile to test them too. So far, they have not fogged, but what I did notice is that they are both reading about 12 degrees F higher than the old standard Reotemp thermometer that I have used for 15 years and have had outside in my compost pile for that long (never fogged up).

My old standard 20" compost thermometer is reading 118 degrees F now on April 13th, 2006. My two new Reotemp 20" compost thermometers are reading 130+ degrees F. These are all spaced about 12" apart in the center of the pile.

So this has caused me to raise my eyebrows. My home compost pile usually hits 120F about this time of year or maybe early May, then sits there at that temperature for a few months after I stop adding to the pile in mid-June. Now I'm thinking that it has been getting hotter than that, but my old thermometer has not been measuring the temperature accurately. A 12 degree error seems significant to me. Something to think about when you're measuring your compost temperatures - how old is your thermometer.

Joe Jenkins

Author: TCLynx
Sunday, April 16, 2006 - 3:00 pm
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Joe,
Have you called Reotemp to inquire about this? What do they say about it fogging up? Could make things a bit difficult. I seem to recall noticing a little condensation in mine but I could still read it.

Author: Joe Jenkins
Monday, April 17, 2006 - 1:11 am
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I'm still waiting to see what the other two thermometers do before I contact Reotemp.

Joe

Author: heather
Monday, April 17, 2006 - 12:35 pm
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I got an Reotemp 20" last december and it has been in my pile since. Has also been fogged up since. I usually flick the dial to move the droplets to one side to read it. I assumed they all worked this way!

(my pile, by the way, seems to be hanging at 100 and spiking when I add material. But a quick reading in the side-between slats- showed that the center is still cooking away at 80 or so. Hoping to see 130 this week!)

Author: heather
Monday, April 17, 2006 - 9:18 pm
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(After posting the last message at school)
Interestingly enough... I came home and checked pile temp. Still at 100! On a lark, I pulled the thermometer 1/2 way out and the temp shot up to 120 almost immediately! So my pile is at 100 20" down, and 120 10" down (I added 2 buckets on Saturday). Weird? Normal? Does ReoTemp make a 10" compost thermometer? Does this mean I am not using enough cover material- I have been going by the Jenkins Rule "if it looks bad or smells bad cover it until it does neither!" My compost looks and smells fine!
Very Curious!

Author: S. Infante
Tuesday, April 18, 2006 - 12:08 pm
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Mine too is always hotter with the thermometer half-way (about 10 inches) up -- a lot hotter, i.e. 140 degs, but when pushed down all the way, it is 80-100. Maybe, we are not digging our depression deep enough?

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