Before you begin using compost, be sure it is ready to be useful to your plants. Composted material takes at least four months to break down into nutrient-rich humus, so check your calendar to make sure you’ve given it adequate time.
Also, pay special attention to how carefully you mixed the equal portions of “green” and “brown” materials in. If the portions are not right, the compost may not have decomposed appropriately: either too fast, or not fast enough. You can test the acidity of the compost with a pH indicator slip (litmus paper). The acid should be near neutral if the compost is ready.
If you didn’t turn the compost with a hayfork, shovel, or other tool, it may not have processed the material enough to be useful. Once a week in warm weather (and once a month in cold) should suffice.
Next, check for the tell-tale signs that compost is ready:
- earthy smell, not putrid
- consistent temperature after turning (immature compost will heat up)
- dark color and crumbly texture
If any of these problems are present, it’s time to go back to the drawing board to perfect your process. Click here for an easy guide to troubleshooting compost. Take your time, good compost is worth the effort!