Compost Pile Heat

Gilroy, CA(Zone 9b)

So the question here is heat. My pile (only 3 weeks old) is by all definition warm.

Before I turn my pile, The top of the pile is most definetely warm to the touch and you can feel heat generating from the pile.

When I turn my pile, I quickly remove my gloves and dip my hands into the pile and i feel warmth, warmer than the top, but not hot (like 150 degree hot).

The pile compacts to about 50% of its size weekly and I am not too worried about this yet... Or.. Should I be????

Phoenix, AZ(Zone 9b)

As the pile decomposes it will become smaller so that's expected. I use a cheap meat thermometer to test the temp. Have been able to get mine up to about 140 but it only sustains that temp for a couple of days because I'm not too good at keeping the ratio precise.

Virginia Beach, VA

I do no0t turn mine and they come out okay. I already have a big pile aside from the 3 big trash bins and have enough to use in spring.


Sacramento, CA(Zone 9a)

It sounds like your pile is chugging right along. It also sounds like you're interested in the temperature. Did you know they make compost thermometers? I received one as a gift. It's somewhat useful - maybe not useful enough to justify the cost - but it's a lot of fun for curious minds.

Thumbnail by GardenSox
Phoenix, AZ(Zone 9b)

That looks nice, easy to read but frankly, you don't need to spend that much. Just get a cheap meat thermometer from the grocery store.......or 99 cent store. Works fine.

Sacramento, CA(Zone 9a)

Mary - I totally agree. I wouldn't have spent that much on it either. I received it as a gift. I do like the extra long probe though because it means I can get a read on the middle of the pile.

Phoenix, AZ(Zone 9b)

oh yeah, I had not thought about the length of the probe. My compost is in a barrel so the meat thermometer works fine. I move the pile into plastic garbage cans, bottom sawed off and big holes drilled all around but I'm a lazy composter. I just don't 'work it' as I should. [sigh - so many projects, not yet retired.....]

Congrats on the 140.....I have some dry leaves now and will get some coffee grounds from Starbucks, that usually gets me up to the 140 mark but I don't do the work to keep it there. The barrel is full and needs to get dumped to start a new batch.

Virginia Beach, VA

I do not use any thermometer on my compost but it will be ready by spring to add to my beds.


Phoenix, AZ(Zone 9b)

I'm such a niggler for's a character flaw really. As a self-employed bookkeeper, I think it's just part of my dna. :-| My clients know me as "The Queen of Details"!

Virginia Beach, VA

Then you must be skinny!!! LOL!!!


Phoenix, AZ(Zone 9b)

Nope, a bit plump!

Gilroy, CA(Zone 9b)

HOLY SMOKES!!! I added a great big pile of dried Grape Leaves and Grass Cuttings turned it and left the pile alone for a week. When I turned that pile on Saturday and stuck my finger in... WHAMMO!!! HEAT GALORE!!!

So, I am now canvassing my neighbors (some of them look at me weird) for their Grass Trimming and I offered to rake their yards (for the leaves).

I am starting another 2 bins at the end of November and leaving this one to cook through March..

Smells so good!!!! I can tell I am gonna have some nice compost when it's done!!!


Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)


Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

>> ... my neighbors (some of them look at me weird) ...

That's how you know you're a Real Gardener!

Next year, after giving away a ton of vegetables, you might have the same hairy eyeballs watching how you do it, so they can copy you.


Savannah, GA

Hairy eyeballs?!? That's an actual saying?

I get bags of leaves and clippings from my neighbors too! I am also a non pile turner. I do fluff as much as I can and I used to open it up, pull some of the stuff out so I can mix it better.

Now that I have chickens I just kind of fluff it and it cooks pretty throughly. It will get to a point where I just quit adding leaves and only add the chicken poo and kitchen scraps. When it gets close to harvesting, I withhold all for a couple weeks. When I break it up I pick any big sticks out then take away the compost. I put the stuff back that's not quite done yet and start over.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

When I want to stir a pile without much effort, i drag a pick through it. That like plowing it a little. Or you could drop one time of a pick into the center, and drag it up and out. Or if your circular fence is big enough, sink the tine in at one angle, and pry it up to the opposite angle.

Or not - as long as you can wait 6 months, you have a perfect low-effort system

>> Hairy eyeballs?!? That's an actual saying?

From "Alice's Restaurant".

An innocent and naive hippy threw some trash on top of another pile of trash becuase the dump was 'closed for thanksgiving". That gave him a criminal record for littering and creating a nuisance, so when he was drafted he had to sit on the "Group W bench" along with other criminals to prove he had rehabilitated himself enough to be drafted for Vietnam.

The other criminals sensed that he wasn't really one them and looked at him suspiciously ("with hairy eyeballs").
They asked him "Wha'd'ja GIT?", menaing "what were you convicted of?"

"I didn't get nothing, and I had to pick up the garbage!"

It started to get ugly when they learned his offense was "littering", but when they heard "and creating a nuisance", they accepted him and all had a good time on the bench there.

Don't get me started on "circles and arrows on the back", or dog-smelling prints"!

Provo, UT(Zone 5a)

rickcorey..i get same looks from some of my neighbours too..LOL
planting lettuce in feb..collecting leaves in fall ( 300+ bags this fall) YEA !!
but when summer comes along..many stop and chat and ask..mmm how do
i get soil like that??? mmmm .. called work.. LOL :)
chopped leaves i havent added to my gardens are mixed with some chopped
grass clippings..and wow.. i pull away leaves from sides..and heat just pours out from
the leaves..

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

>> many stop and chat and ask..mmm how do i get soil like that??? mmmm .. called work.. LOL :)

One lady told me she overheard someone asking a clerk "What's an easy way to get rid of weeds?"
She had to bite her lip to keep from explaining:
"On your knees, like God intended!"

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

Rick, you can also "squat" but it's harder to get up. LOL!

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Yeah, both are musical activities. Sometimes I make alarmning noises. Got to get one of thsoe kneeling-sitting benchs with armrests you can do push-ups on ... but it better be STURDY to take my weight!

Mostly I try to work with long-handled tools so I don;t bend over.

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

My leaf compost started off warm , not hot. and is now thoroghly moist, and cooled. I added lawn fert yesterday, we'll see if it heats it up again.. as you know, nitrogen gets exhausted because it is so transient.

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