Harvesting & Using Finished Compost In Garden

Currently, I utilize 3 types of composting system in my home and only one of them need harvesting that is bottle composting while the other two (piece by piece composting and dig & bury aka pit composting) don’t need harvesting as they decompose on and in the soils.

Compost In Bottle Composting System
Finished compost in bottle composting system. My soils and plants will be so delighted!

The time has come for me to harvest the compost from one of my bottles (I have 3). FYI, it’s my 2nd time harvesting compost via the bottle composting system. So, how do I know when it’s time to harvest the compost? How to tell if it’s not done yet? How to use the harvested compost? I will answer all that and more below.

First, if you have never composted before and want to learn how to compost, check out this composting post. I introduced 3 easy composting systems that you can use almost anywhere as long as you have at least a pot of soil to utilize the finished compost. If this is your first time composting, read on to learn the tips and tricks on how to harvest ready compost and use it in your garden.

1. How do I know that the compost is decomposing (decaying)?

Before we can even think about harvesting our compost, we need to know if the compost is decomposing. You know, whether you’re doing it right. There are two ways I use to check this.

a. By sight: You can see that the materials are decaying after a few days/weeks.

b. By touch: When composting is done right, the pile will be warm/hot to the touch. This is due to the breaking down/decaying of materials. I will touch my composting bottles to determine if it’s warm.

2. How long does it take for the compost to be ready?

The rate of decomposing is different each time as it depends on the system used, types of materials used, materials sizes and environmental factors. Compost should be ready approximately 3 to 6 months time.

3. How do I know that the compost is finished and ready to be used?

You can check if the compost has finished decomposing with these 4 ways:

a. The original materials are no longer recognizable, safe for except a few things like twigs and cobs for example.

b. The finished compost no longer feel warm or hot.

c. The finished compost looks dark and crumbly. They will look like moist soil.

d. The finished compost smells earthy nice!

To do this, take some of the compost to check. Remember, you need to cure the compost once you stop adding new materials to your compost system and allow it cure for at least a month or longer so that the final compost will be more stable.

4. How to harvest finished compost?

Once you have determined the compost is ready, it’s time to harvest them. In this case, I will be talking about bottle composting system. All you need to do is use a long stick to dig out the finished compost on a spread of used newspapers.

Harvesting Finished Compost From Bottle Composting System
On the left is finished compost and on the right is new materials for the empty bottle.

Harvested Compost aka Black Gold
Black gold!!! So precious. They smell earthy alright but the lower piles in the bottle stink a bit. That means they’re not done yet. Oh, I should have given them a few good turns during the composting process to aerate them. A good lesson. I still use all of them for my garden though.

Harvested Compost aka Black Gold
There are some uncomposted twigs and leaves here. You can take them out and put them back in the bottle. I didn’t remove them and just use everything.

5. How to use finished compost?

There are several ways to use finished compost. Some of them are:

a. Use as is by sprinkling directly on the plants.

b. Mix finished compost 1:1 or 2:1 with fresh soil and sprinkle on the plants. I do this the most because I want to be able to distribute the finished compost to all my plants (I have many plants!) more equally. If I have homemade bone, prawn and/or fish meal, I will add them to the finished compost too. Mix finished compost 3:1 or 4:1 with meal.

Adding DIY Bone, Prawn & Fish Meal Blend Fertilizer To Compost
Here, I added the DIY homemade meal into my recently finished compost and fresh soil. I also included materials from piece by piece composting and charcoal paste & clay.

c. Add some compost to the hole in pot/ground before planting new plant.

6. How frequent should I add compost to my plants?

Add them when your compost is finished which I believe won’t be quite frequent. I’ve read that adding compost frequently ain’t good for the plants.

That’s it. I hope you find the post useful. I’m still learning about composting along the way and does make mistake from time to time like the above no. 4. If you have tips, remember to share them in the comment section so that everyone can learn together.

p/s: Besides using compost, I also add vitamins to my plants and soils.

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