While many people prefer to put their compost to use immediately, storing it for longer term use is also a viable option! Whether you’re managing an excess amount or simply trying to extend the life of your compost, there are a variety of effective and accessible storage methods.
Why Store Compost?
Contrary to popular belief, compost doesn't have an expiration date. It's a living entity, continually breaking down and transforming, and proper storage is crucial to preserving compost quality and preventing the growth of unwanted fungus while retaining essential nutrients for your garden soil. While it's true that compost loses some nutrients after four months of storage, the impact on your plants is minimal until about a year after completion. Even after a year or two of storage, you might notice a slight reduction in volume as the compost further decomposes. This natural process doesn't render your compost useless; rather, it indicates that it's time to put it to good use.
Protecting Your Compost from Moisture and Nutrient Loss
When storing compost, your primary goal should be to shield it from excessive moisture and nutrient loss. Adequate oxygen and proper humidity levels within the compost pile are key factors in ensuring its well-being. Short-term storage generally doesn't pose major issues, but exposure to prolonged rain or high humidity can lead to problems. In such cases, ensure proper aeration and prevent excess moisture from seeping in.
Smart Storage Solutions
Short-Term Storage: If you're storing compost for a few months, especially during a rainy season, consider using stakes and a tarp to cover the pile. This setup offers protection against harsh weather while allowing regular airflow to prevent stagnation.
Medium-Term Storage: For longer storage periods, particularly in winter, you'll need consistent air circulation while safeguarding against ground moisture. Opt for walled storage solutions like sheds, barns, or garages to ensure the compost's integrity.
Winter Storage: Using plastic garbage bins with drilled holes is a suitable winter storage solution. Black bins are preferable, as the color elevates internal temperatures, aiding compost breakdown. This approach is particularly useful with lidded buckets, allowing easy rotation and aeration.
Storage Methods and Locations
Outdoor Pile: Storing compost outside in a pile provides flexibility for continuous composting. Cover piles with a tarp to prevent excess moisture accumulation and encourage a healthy composting process. Worms can also find their way to the pile naturally, contributing to its enrichment.
Reusable Bags and Containers: Utilizing reusable cloth bags, garbage bags, or affordable empty garbage cans for storage conserves space, maintains compost quality, and require minimal maintenance. Regularly check and lightly mist the compost to ensure proper moisture levels. Mix the compost to prevent drying and nutrient loss and leave the container slightly open or add holes for proper oxygen flow.
Indoor Storage: If storing compost indoors, choose a dry area with moderate temperatures, ensuring that the storage container is secured from potential hazards that might fall onto or tip over the container.
Addressing Composting Concerns
Has your stored compost taken on an unpleasant odor? Don't fret; this doesn't signify doom for your compost bin. It's simply a sign that your compost might be off-balance, overly moist, or densely packed. To solve this issue, try incorporating more "brown" materials into the mix – think dry leaves, straw, hay, and newspaper, which will help restore equilibrium and facilitate proper decomposition.
Storing your compost correctly not only preserves its nutrients but also contributes to a healthier garden. Whether you're an avid composter or just starting out, these storage solutions will help you maintain the quality of your compost while benefiting your garden in the long run.
Let’s Go Compost is a community-led effort to make compost bins free and accessible. We upcycle empty bulk ingredient bins into free, food-safe worm compost bins that are donated back to the community. Click here to get a free compost bin at our next pick up event.