Last couple of days I have been getting ready for spring by spreading the compost I made back in May, I wrote a post where I talk about the soil food web and monitoring the temperature and moisture content of the pile a month back.

I started this pile on the 20/5/ with pile temp starting at 28C, over the next two days it reached 55C, this is a slower heating rate when compared to the piles I have been making in the past (just grass clippings), another day the temp climbed to 65C with a hot spot of 70, on the 25th I turned the pile, I didn't want the temp to go anymore than 70, temps over 70 indicates an extreme rate of bacteria multiplication and food consumption which then results in anaerobic conditions and offgassing of minerals that we want to keep in the pile, nitrogen for e.g., turning will lower the temp as will adding water, I also wanted to see how moisture content was and check for actinobacteria, to dry if there's lots of actino, this shows up as white powder, some is ok but not too much, there was some white spots and looked dry so I added water as I turned. I took a soil sample from under where the pile was to the uni and the field of view under the microscope was full of bacteria, to be expected, the pile won't get hot if there's no bacteria.
This pattern of temp reduction on turning then rising over time continued for the next 5 turnings, with each successive turning the temp not rising to the same high as the previous and taking a little longer each time to reach the max temp, if I understand correctly the main aim is to achieve a temp of 55 (or over) for a minimum of 15 days with the least no. of turnings and interference, from what I understand this temp is a threshold for killing weeds seeds, pathogens and denaturing other nasties (pesticides for e.g.)
On the 5/7, temp was about 46C, a final turning with added water and where monitoring stopped due to me being away from home, temp had settled to about 30C when I got back home, 18th or so, worms, millipedes and woodlice all moving in, good signs. I have seen an increase in the number of worms turning up in these better piles, I suspect the grass only piles they didn't like.
completed hot compost.jpglots of worms.jpgend use of compost.jpg
This pile has been cooking for 2 months, it has been hot and now cooled, this is about the minimum time to allow for a pile to be ready for use, good indications the pile is ready for use is the activity of the arthropods that we can see and the compost has a stickyness to it, further time allows the critters to decompose the woodier parts, twigs and chips, etc. I prefer to just use it as a surface dressing and let the worms do any digging in.

As well as the twigs and chips that take time to break down there's also all the critters that have an exoskeleton, I found this little white ball of fluff with something inside it, I rubbed some of the white off and could see it was an (ex)mole cricket, from visual inspection it looks like a fungas is in the early stage of decomposing the exoskeleton, all just part of the eat or be eaten process.
fungas decomposing a mole cricket.jpg




Pete