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Does Compost Need Water? How Often To Water Compost

To water or not to water… that is the question when it comes to compost, of course. If you’re looking to reduce your carbon footprint through less waste, and create an earth-friendly fertilizer all at the same time, then compost is THE way to go. But watering your compost is a part of maintenance essential to making sure the compost does its job.

As a general rule, a compost pile should be watered every three to seven days. However, the amount of water needed and the actual frequency will depend on various factors, such as the amount of compost used and its location. It’s also important to properly drain your compost to ensure it’s not over or under watered.

Knowing the frequency needed for watering compost and other elements related to using compost can be a tricky concept for anyone to wrap their head around. Fortunately, we have compiled a listing of all the basics you need to know about compost, how often to water it, and more.

Does Water Help Compost?

Watering compost semi-frequently is vital for breaking down the nutrients in the compost mixture. Without water, the combination would either not break down or break down at a much slower pace.

  • All living things depend on water in some capacity, and this also applies to compost.
  • Beyond the compost itself, insects and microorganisms will also help to enrich the compost and allow it to thrive.
  • Using the right amount of water will cause this to happen.

In addition, watering compost regularly will allow for the regulation of heat balance in the compost. If the compost gets too warm, it may start to rot out and smell or, in extreme cases, catch on fire. Watering compost helps to prevent these unwanted effects from happening.

Keep in mind that you will want to occasionally turn the compost to ensure that you do not have too much water inside the compost pile and that there is adequate airflow.

How Often Do You Need to Water Compost?

On average, plan to water your compost pile every three to seven days. In other words: once or twice a week. This is generally considered a good rule of thumb among most gardeners as the best time to wait before watering compost again.

If you live in a dry, warm environment, it is better to water twice a week. However, if you live in a more mild area, you are likely safe only to need to water your compost once a week.

Here’s a good video from an expert with some reasons why they water their compost, with more info below:

Are There Issues With Watering Too Much or Too Little?

Keep in mind that excessive watering of the compost can be inadequate for the soil. Too much water will rot the compost, which can negatively impact your garden’s soil. It will also start to smell due to anaerobic bacteria, smelly bacteria that don’t require oxygen to live, taking over and killing off other microorganisms.

Also, the microorganisms in the compost will likely not be able to help break down the compost if you overwater the pile. Since microorganisms require a balance of water and air to live, excessive watering will limit the amount of air that flows into the compost.

  • However, watering too little can have adverse effects, as well.
  • As previously stated, not watering enough will cause the compost to dry out and get too warm.
  • This may cause it to rot out and smell or be prone to catching on fire.
  • Watering your compost will prevent these symptoms from happening.

Keep in mind, as well, that you will want to have a good amount of consistency of water among your compost. Watering too much in one area and not enough in another can be detrimental to the soil. If one place becomes more moistened than another, you will want to turn the compost to ensure that no area is less dry.

How Much Water Should I Use When Watering Compost?

As mentioned, the amount of water used on your compost is vital for allowing it to work efficiently in your garden. The University of Illinois advised that compost piles should consist of 40 to 60 percent of water.

This sounds like a rather abstract way of measuring the amount, but there is a relatively easy way to determine the right consistency.

To do this, put on a pair of garden gloves, pick up the watered compost, and squeeze it. If water excessively pours out, then you have exceeded the optimal amount of water.

If no water comes over when pressed, then you have not added enough. The optimal amount of water will drip out, similar to a kitchen sponge, which will clue you in that you have watered the compost sufficiently.

Should I Water After Putting Down Compost?

After immediately putting down compost, your next step will be to determine if you should water it. The primary key to gauging if this is a good idea or not will depend on the current level of moisture in the compost upon placing it.

If the compost appears visibly dried out, you will want to water it. Not having a workable amount of moisture in the soil will cause it not to work efficiently and lead to the aforementioned adverse side effects. In many cases, you will want to water the compost immediately.

However, if your compost does not appear to be too dried out on your initial laying of it, you will probably be fine to wait at least a few days before rechecking it.

Again, making sure there is a good amount of moisture in your compost is critical to fully utilizing the benefits compost can offer your garden. The key here is to frequently check the moisture after putting down the compost.

Final Thoughts

When you’re ready to start fertilizing your plants and yard while reducing the amount of waste you throw out, then it’s time to start composting. And now that you know how to properly maintain a healthy compost pile with the right amount of water, you’re one step closer to making that happen. Happy composting!

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