How do I know when the compost is finished?
The temperature of finished compost should be the same as the outside temperature, and the material should not reheat. You will see earthworms and other insects now that the temperature is lower. If your compost is still hot, smells like ammonia, or you can still recognize much of the original material, then it is not ready to use. Once the compost appears finished, let it sit for at least 3 weeks to make sure decomposition has stabilized.

Compost is ready to use when it is dark, brown, crumbly, sort of fluffy, with a pleasant, earthy odor. It would not be moldy or rotten. The original materials that went into the pile should no longer be recognizable, except for some woody pieces, which you can throw back into your next compost pile.

You might be tempted to use compost before it is ready, but don’t do it. If incompletely decomposed material is added to your garden soil, bacteria may compete with plants for nitrogen in the soil. Plants will look stunted and yellow. Unfinished compost has been found to also retard germination and growth of seedlings.

Show All Answers

1. Why does my compost smell bad? How do I fix it?
2. Why is my pile taking forever to compost?
3. How do I keep rodents out of my pile?
4. How do I avoid bears in my pile?
5. Bears have already been in my compost, how do I make them go away?
6. Are flies in my compost pile good or bad?
7. Is it okay to put diseased plants, invasive weeds or weed seeds in my compost pile?
8. How can I compost weed seeds, diseased plants and invasive weeds with rhizomatous root systems?
9. Can I make a fertilizer out of weeds?
10. How do I know when the compost is finished?
11. Can I add grass or plants that have been treated with herbicides or pesticides to my pile?
12. What kind of animal manure is good for composting?
13. Why do my eggshells take forever to compost?
14. How do I compost my food scraps during the winter when my pile is frozen solid?