Plan the perfect garden with our interactive tool →

How to Cure Compost

Since compost is created by adding new organic matter, such as food waste, on an ongoing basis, it may seem like you will never have a finished product. As soon as you stop adding organic matter to the pile though, the pile begins to cool and completes the decomposition of the organic matter in the pile. This curing process is essential to the success of your compost, as uncured compost can damage some plants.

Remove some of the compost from the pile and place it in a separate location. Many people use bins for this process, but if you have your compost pile directly in your yard or garden, you can also transfer part of the compost to another location.

Keep the compost that you want to cure moist at all times. The compost will not continue to process if it dries out.

Aerate the pile. This can be done through turning, just as it was during the initial part of the composting process. Use a pitchfork to turn the compost out every couple of weeks to allow air to circulate through the pile and then return the compost to the pile or bin.

Allow the compost to cure for at least eight weeks. It will take at least this long for the compost to be completely finished and ready to use.

Monitor the curing process. Just because compost can cure in as little as eight weeks doesn’t mean that it will. It can take up to a year depending upon the materials that were used. When the compost is ready, none of the original organic matter will be recognizable and the compost will appear dark, have a musky smell and will crumble when handled.

Tip

You can cure an entire compost pile at once by just starting a new compost pile and allowing the original to sit untouched so that it can cure. Compost is ready to cure after it has finished the “hot” phase of composting. The “hot” phase is the time during which the compost sits in the pile and is turned regularly. During the several weeks of the “hot” phase, the compost pile should shrink to approximately half of its original size. Once it has reached this size, it should be ready for curing.

Garden Guides
×