Ask a Question forum: Compost piles

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evenac44
Feb 17, 2015 1:12 PM CST
Just read the article on compost going anaerobic and how it affects plants. My question is: if a compost pile has not been turned and may be anaerobic, can you later use it if you add new materials and start regular turning?
Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
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dave
Feb 17, 2015 1:25 PM CST

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We had a bit of a discussion about it here:

The thread "Permaculture voices podcast, healing the soil" in Permaculture forum

I'd encourage you to listen to the audio podcast linked in the first post of that thread.

I do believe that compost that has gone into anaerobic conditions can indeed be restored by simply turning it, bringing air in, and keeping it turned for quite some time. Eventually the anaerobic bacteria should die and the good aerobic bacteria will begin to grow. But that's just my guess as I've never actually had to do this.
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
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RickCorey
Feb 17, 2015 3:04 PM CST
If rain falls on your heap, it will tend to leach out the fermentation products that can be toxic when concentrated.

But when a heap gets too wet, air has a harder time getting into it. Throwing a tarp over the pile before a heavy rain might be part of keeping it aerobic.

Or just build enough coarse twiggy stuff into it that you always have air channels ... but those make it hard to turn. I like to keep any stiff stems shorter than 8-12 inches so the heap is easy to turn.
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
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dyzzypyxxy
Feb 17, 2015 3:15 PM CST
The other thing to consider is that an anaerobic pile will be very obvious - there's generally no "might be anaerobic" about it. It will be soggy, slimy and it will stink! As Rick says, those "fermenatation products" smell bad.

If your pile has just burned down aerobically, and you have finished compost at the bottom in the springtime when you get back to turning it, it will smell good and look like rich, dark crumbly "garden gold".
Elaine

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Name: stone
near Macon Georgia (USA) (Zone 8a)
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stone
Feb 17, 2015 5:46 PM CST
Welcome to all things plants, evanac44!
Where do you garden?

Truth to tell, I've never seen anaerobic compost.
Nor do I bother about turning my piles.

I pile my debris in the veggie patch where the soil is especially poor.
After piling stuff on for a year or two...

I start a new pile with the top layer of uncomposted material and rake the compost smooth... But... I don't put much effort into the raking... If I have compost a foot deep in places... I don't care, should prevent weed seed germination... And as I said... The soil is poor.

Anyway... My method is called cold composting, and the method to the madness is that there is more end product with far less work, than with typical aerobic composting

evenac44
Feb 18, 2015 1:07 PM CST
Thank you all for your quick responses. I am in Nacogdoches, Texas so, Dave, we're practically neighbors; and you know then about all the rain we've had for many months. And there is a lot of twiggy material in the compost heap so maybe that is why I have not noticed any odor. I like the idea of just sort of scraping off the top to start a new pile and plan on doing just that soon. Am loving this site. Thanks, again!
Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Region: Texas Master Gardener: Texas Permaculture Raises cows I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Garden Ideas: Master Level Beekeeper Garden Sages Avid Green Pages Reviewer Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
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dave
Feb 18, 2015 1:18 PM CST

Garden.org Admin

Welcome! to ATP neighbor. Smiling It'll be spring soon!

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