A Fresh Batch of Compost: The Three Month Cook

Well that was a fast batch of rich compost! I didn’t think it would break down so fast and at such a large amount. I first tried this method back in October 2014 when I wrote an in-depth article about how to make fast and easy compost. You can read that here. Well, as it turns out, I sometimes know what I’m talking about! Huzzah to being right. Sometimes…

Here’s what I did since October. I checked the temps from time to time to see how hot the pile was getting and turned it when it dropped below 100° because that meant that the pile needed some more oxygen. I tried to keep it at an average of 120° for most of the time, but some days it reached 140°-150°! Which was perfect because that means it was hot enough to destroy all of the weed seeds hiding in the dark recesses of my pile. Sneaky bastards.

Towards the end, I didn’t think it was really cooking enough but once I started sifting it out, the pile of finished compost began to grow and grow. I’d say about 80% of it was completely broken down! I used an old plant tray from the nursery as a sifter. Always on that budget people! They work great and often come with different openings so you can sift for different sizes of materials. One or two shovel fulls at a time, I picked away at the pile.

Compost 01
Sifting for gold.

You can tell it’s ready when there are no longer any recognizable chunks of stuff. The technical term; chunks-o-stuff. It also has a great earthy scent to it and is dark and rich.

Compost 2
The finished results; rich, dark and earthy!

As the pile of finished compost grew and grew, I got more and more excited! All that free black gold! Mine for the taking.

I couldn’t wait to start a new one and perhaps hone my skills to get it finished even faster and get the pile as hot as possible. The recent heavy rains (well, heavy for San Diego) have caused a huge surplus of weeds throughout the yard so I had plenty of material ready to break down. I’ve also been doing a lot of the winter tree pruning throughout the garden so I had some twigs and branch cuttings scattered about.

This time around, I wanted to have a nice bottom layer of larger sticks to add an even greater flow of oxygen through the bottom of the pile. Here’s the start of the new pile.

Compost 3
Twig and branch base

I continued adding all the brown carbon rich materials with some thinner layers of nitrogen rich green materials. The pile still ended up a bit on the smaller side, but there’s still PLENTY of weeds to gather to add to it on my next day off! Here’s where I left off.

Compost 4
The working pile

I’m sure I can double that after all the weeds are picked through. It’s really nice to have a positive thought when I look at weeds. Normally they are such a burden to people, but I see them as a good source for compost. At least until my small trees become large trees. Then, I’ll have a lot more materials to add and be able to produce large volumes of compost and even mulch. As it stands now, I’m making the best out of what I have and I’m still able to produce without bringing in outside sources of carbon or nitrogen. It’s all about being self sufficient and sustainable on the Gielow ranch!

Compost 5
My meager Pile

19 Replies to “A Fresh Batch of Compost: The Three Month Cook”

  1. Very nice compost you’ve made, there! Well done! I have a compost tumbler I love for the easy results. I find it very satisfying to make Black Gold from stuff that would ordinarily be thrown away. Love a fresh batch of compost 🙂

    1. A tumbler sounds nice. Is it large enough to get a bunch of finished compost? I was going to buy one, but kinda got into the idea of free composting. Pallets from the local hardware store cost nothing. Also, I like that when the compost pile is open to the ground I get all kinds of bugs and grubs to feed my chickens with. They go crazy over those giant fat white ones! I think they’re beetle larvae. It’s like candy for the girls and a great source of protein.

      1. I love the tumbler but it doesn’t produce as much as the stand alone bins like you have. The turning is much easier on the back though as you don’t have to fork it, just give it a whirl around its axle. I also live in an HOA controlled neighbourhood with neighbours who are uber concerned about critters getting in to things and generally any farmy-type activities. The tumblers keep everyone happy. I bet your chooks do love the bugs!

    1. Hi Isara. Well the principles are the same. Basically. However, sticks and branches will take much longer to break down as they are. On account of the general chunkiness.

      You have two options. You can simply wait for the process to break it down over a LONG period of time. Or, you can use a chipper/shredder to help the process along.

      You’d still need some form of nitrogen to balance out the mix as the branches will be mostly carbon based.

      Kitchen scraps, grass clippings, weeds (before they go to seed unless your doing a hot pile) and things like that. The ratios are such that nitrogen materials are smaller than the carbon materials so you may be good in that regard.

      For a more detailed breakdown of the ratios and ingredients you can use, check out this article…


      I hope this helps!

  2. Oh my goodness! Amazing article dude! Many thanks, However I am experiencing issues with your RSS. I don’t understand why I am unable to join it. Is there anybody else getting the same RSS problems? Anyone who knows the answer can you kindly respond? Thanks!!

    1. Hello Hayley,

      I’ve looked into the RSS feed and everything appears to be in order. Are you still having trouble? Let me know if you’ve discovered anything.


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