Aggressive composting involves active participation. A highly managed compost pile can produce finished compost in as little as three to four weeks. The speed with which finished compost is produced depends on the size of the materials, smaller pieces heat up quicker and get hotter, and how often the pile is turned.
The temperature of a managed pile is important as it indicates the activity of the decomposition process. The ideal temperature range is between 104 degrees Fahrenheit and 131 degrees Fahrenheit. If the pile appears to be “cooling down”, the microbial activity has slowed.
Adding more nitrogen (green) materials such as kitchen wastes, grass clippings or manure will heat it back up. Serious composters may want to use a compost thermometer; they are inexpensive and quite useful for a managed pile.
Air circulation is very important in a managed pile. Most of the organisms that decompose organic matter need air to survive. Periodically turning the pile or mixing the materials will re-oxygenate the pile. The object is to end up with the material that was on the outside of the pile to be in the middle of the restacked pile.
Materials that are easily compacted, such as grass clipping, sawdust and ashes should be mixed with courser materials like straw. This will help maintain the needed air. Tree limbs or small diameter PVC pipes can be placed vertically into different parts of a large pile and shaken occasionally for maximum air circulation.