Mastering the Art of Composting: A Step-by-Step Guide to Finish Compost Like a Pro!

How to Finish Compost: A Comprehensive Guide


Composting not only helps reduce waste but also provides nutrient-rich soil for your garden. While starting a compost pile is relatively easy, knowing when and how to finish it can be a bit trickier. In this blog post, we will provide you with step-by-step instructions on how to successfully complete the composting process.

The Importance of Finishing Compost

Finishing compost is crucial as it allows the decomposition process to fully occur and ensures that harmful bacteria or pathogens are eliminated. When properly finished, compost becomes dark, crumbly, and earthy-smelling – indicating its readiness for use in gardening or landscaping.

Step 1: Monitoring Temperature and Moisture Levels

Monitoring Temperature

To finish your compost effectively, keep an eye on its temperature using a thermometer (stick it about halfway into the pile). The ideal range should be between 130°F-150°F (54°C-66°C) as this heat kills weed seeds and pathogens present in the organic matter.

Monitoring Moisture Levels

Maintaining appropriate moisture levels in your compost is essential. It should feel like a damp sponge when squeezed; too much water makes it soggy while insufficient moisture inhibits microbial activity. Aim for around 50% moisture content by occasionally adding water if needed.

Step 2: Turning Your Compost Pile Regularly

The Importance of Turning Your Pile

Regularly turning your compost helps introduce oxygen into the pile, promoting aerobic decomposition. Oxygen encourages beneficial microorganisms’ growth while reducing foul odors associated with anaerobic breakdown processes.

Tips for Effective Turning:

  • Avoid turning daily; instead, aim for once every 1-2 weeks.
  • Use a garden fork or compost turner to gently mix the pile.
  • Fold the outer materials into the center for proper aeration and even decomposition.

Step 3: Assessing Maturity and Readiness

The Visual Indicators of Finished Compost

When your compost is ready to be used, it exhibits several visual characteristics:

  • A dark brown or black color throughout the entire pile.
  • An earthy aroma with no foul odors remaining.
  • No recognizable pieces of organic matter; everything should have broken down.

The Sifting Test

If you are unsure whether your compost is fully finished, perform a simple sifting test. Pass a small amount of compost through a mesh screen or fine-meshed sieve. Any remaining large chunks can be returned to the pile for further decomposition.

Step 4: Using Your Finished Compost

Incorporating Compost into Soil and Gardens

Once your compost has reached maturity, it’s time to put it to use! Here are some ways you can incorporate finished compost into your soil:

  • Mix it in garden beds or containers before planting vegetables, flowers, or shrubs.
  • Add it as topdressing around existing plants for added nutrients and moisture retention capacity.
  • Create nutrient-rich potting mixes by blending compost with peat moss and vermiculite/perlite (if needed).

Storing Excess Compost Properly


Enjoy the Fruits of Your Composting Labor

By following these steps, you’ll successfully finish your compost pile and obtain nutrient-rich soil for your gardening endeavors. Remember to monitor temperature and moisture levels regularly, turn your pile, assess maturity visually or through sifting tests, and utilize finished compost wisely. Happy composting!