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How to Harvest Compost In 7 Easy Steps

You might not know that harvesting compost can be a straightforward process if done correctly. Start by checking the compost’s readiness, but what comes next is essential to ensure the best results.

By following seven simple steps, you can efficiently harvest compost and enhance your garden’s health and productivity.

1. Check Compost Maturity

To determine if your compost is ready for harvesting, check its maturity by ensuring it’s medium brown and crumbly. A mature compost should exhibit a rich medium brown color, indicating that the decomposition process is complete. When you touch the compost, it should feel crumbly in your hands, not too wet or too dry. Avoid any patches of mold or intact compost material, as these are signs that the compost still needs more time to break down fully. Additionally, a mature compost should emit a pleasant earthy smell, signaling that it’s ready to be used in your garden.

To further assess the readiness of your compost, use a stick or garden fork to probe the pile. You shouldn’t encounter any large pieces of material that haven’t yet decomposed. Ensure that there are no visible worms in the compost and that the texture is uniform throughout. These indicators will confirm that your compost is indeed mature and ready for harvesting.

2. Empty Compost Bin

After confirming the maturity of your compost, the next step is to empty the compost bin by transferring its contents onto a large sheet of plastic or by turning over the Dalek composter.

  1. Use a shovel or turn the Dalek composter over: Employ a shovel to transfer the compost onto a large plastic sheet for easy handling. Alternatively, you can turn over the Dalek composter to completely empty it.
  2. Remove large pieces and separate into piles: As you empty the compost, remove any large pieces like sticks and fruit pits. Afterward, separate the compost into piles based on its readiness: ready for use, almost finished, or needing further processing.
  3. Utilize almost ready compost as mulch: The compost that’s almost ready can be used as mulch in your garden. However, avoid using it around tender plants that may be sensitive to the still decomposing materials.

3. Sort Compost Materials

When sorting compost materials, ensure to remove any large pieces such as sticks and fruit pits before separating the compost into piles based on its level of readiness.

Start by inspecting the compost pile for any items that haven’t fully decomposed, like branches or seeds. These can be set aside for further processing or added back to the compost bin for further decomposition.

Next, divide the compost into different piles based on its maturity level. The first pile can consist of almost finished compost that may need a bit more time to fully break down. The second pile should contain the finished compost that’s dark, crumbly, and has an earthy smell, indicating it’s ready for use.

Remember to turn the pile occasionally to aerate it and speed up the decomposition process. By sorting your compost materials efficiently, you can ensure a good balance of carbon-rich ‘browns’ and nitrogen-rich ‘greens,’ resulting in nutrient-rich soil for your garden.

4. Screen Compost

After sorting your compost materials to separate them based on readiness, the next step is to screen the compost for optimum quality and nutrient-rich soil. Here’s how to efficiently screen your compost:

  1. Prepare the Screening Area:

Set up a screen over a wheelbarrow or tarp to catch the sifted compost. Ensure the mesh size is appropriate to filter out debris effectively.

2. Shake and Sift:

    Tip the compost onto the screen and gently shake it side to side. The fine particles will fall through the screen, leaving behind larger debris like sticks and uncomposted materials.

    3. Check for Quality:

      The screened compost should exhibit a brown or black color, have a crumbly texture, and appear rich in nutrients. Minimal visible worms indicate the compost is mature and ready for use in your garden.

      5. Bag Compost

      To efficiently bag compost for storage and transportation, select sturdy, breathable bags that allow for proper air circulation. Bag compost should be stored in a cool, dry place to maintain its quality. After bagging the compost, let it mature for a few weeks before using it in your garden. This maturing process ensures that the compost reaches its full potential and is ready to provide nutrients to your plants.

      Bagged compost offers a convenient way to use compost as needed without creating a mess. When choosing bags for your compost, ensure they’re durable enough to hold the weight of the compost and allow air to flow through to aid in the decomposition process. Properly bagged compost can be easily transported to different areas of your garden or even shared with friends and neighbors for their gardening needs.

      6. Apply Compost to Garden

      For a flourishing garden, infuse vitality into your plants by incorporating compost into the soil to enrich it with essential nutrients. Applying compost to your garden offers a myriad of benefits that contribute to improved soil health and increased yields.

      Here’s how you can effectively apply compost to your garden:

      1. Mix Compost with Soil: Before planting, blend compost thoroughly with the soil to provide a nutrient-rich environment for your plants to thrive.
      2. Utilize Compost as Topdressing: For established plants, create a topdressing by mounding compost around the base of the plants. Ensure to water it well to activate its benefits and promote continuous nutrition.
      3. Observe Dark Soil: After applying compost, aim for dark, rich-colored soil. This indicates that the compost has been well incorporated, promoting optimal plant growth and improved drainage.

      7. Restart Composting Bin

      Upon completing the harvesting process, the next step in your composting journey is to restart the composting bin for a fresh cycle of nutrient-rich decomposition.

      To make the best compost pile, ensure a good mix of organic materials, such as fruit peels, vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, and yard waste. Begin by layering browns (like dry leaves or newspaper) with greens (such as grass clippings or kitchen scraps) in your compost bin to keep the balance of carbon and nitrogen. Add a few handfuls of finished compost from your previous batch to introduce beneficial microorganisms and jumpstart the decomposition process.

      Turn the materials occasionally to aerate the pile and help speed up the composting process. Monitor the moisture levels; the compost should feel like a damp sponge. Once the materials are dark, crumbly, and earthy-smelling, your compost is ready to be used in the garden, providing your plants with essential nutrients for growth.

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