Turning Over A Composter: How To Do It

Turning Over A Composter: How To Do It

Turning the compost is a strenuous job that can make you sweat profusely. Nevertheless, it must be done for a variety of reasons. However, with the help of this guide, you can organize the job well so that it becomes less tedious. Good preparation and proper tools will save you time and stress.

Why should you turn compost?

Turning kitchen waste into compost is a tedious process that takes a relatively long time. Turning it speeds it up and valuable humus is formed more quickly. Turning should be done at regular intervals, but at least in early spring.


One of the most important reasons for turning compost is aeration. Composting, or rotting, is a process in which microorganisms and soil animals in the compost turn garden and kitchen waste into mature compost in the end. From a chemist’s perspective, rotting or composting is an exothermic reaction. It’s a type of slow combustion that produces heat as a byproduct. Like any exothermic reaction, composting requires oxygen. In addition, the living things responsible for it also need oxygen. Turning layer by layer adds the needed oxygen to fresh compost soil.


The organic material of the compost has different sizes. Coarse material alternates with fine. Turning results in good mixing. The already partially decomposed waste can be better broken down by the microorganisms. The repositioning causes a faster rotting. You can recognize the success of the measure by the temperature in the compost heap, which rises after successful turning and can reach more than 60 °C.

Preventing undesirable processes

By turning semi-finished compost, you prevent numerous undesirable processes in the compost pile. For example, you combat the appearance of ants, infestation with fungi (mold) or that, in the worst case, the rotting comes to a standstill. If the compost does not get enough oxygen, rotting stops. Instead of forming finished humus, the microorganisms die and are replaced by putrefactive bacteria, which turn the rotted material into a foul-smelling mass that must be disposed of and is worthless as organic fertilizer.

When and how often should you turn a compost pile?
Many gardening experts say early spring is the ideal time to turn the compost pile. This work is necessary at least once a year. Others say it is necessary to turn the compost regularly. They recommend a second turning in the summer or even every 2-3 months.

Step by step instructions for turning the compost

The preparation

Best time

The ideal time is early spring, February or March depending on the weather. Wait until the compost pile has thawed to the lower layers before turning it, as organic material will not rot in freezing conditions. Choose a dry period when it is not yet too warm. Then it will be easier to move the material and you will not sweat so much.

Required material or tools

Free compost heap, as close as possible to the first
Digging fork
Compost sieve
Working gloves

Instructions for the procedure

Step 1
First, prepare the lower layers of the new compost pile by spreading coarse material there, such as shredded branches or pieces of wood. This layer will act as drainage and ensure that the organic matter is provided with the oxygen necessary for decomposition.

Step 2
Start at the surface of the compost pile to be turned and remove the organic material layer by layer. Shovel semi-finished compost soil and coarse material onto the new compost pile.

Step 3
As you move, you will inevitably encounter finished compost. This does not belong on the new compost pile, but is set aside.

Step 4.
Throw the finished compost through a compost sieve with the shovel. This creates fine-grained humus with a friable structure.

Step 5.
Coarse material that remains in the sieve is placed on the free compost heap. There it can decompose in peace and become valuable humus.

Step 6
When you have completely turned the compost pile, water the material and cover the surface with a layer of autumn leaves, which you should store separately for this purpose. The leaves will serve as protection against the sun and dehydration.

Tips and tricks

To speed up decomposition, “inoculate” the new compost pile with either finished compost soil or mix in some compost accelerator.

If you apply a thin layer of quicklime or fertilizer lime every 20- 30 cm, you will get a very mild humus that is well tolerated by most plants.

You can make sifting the compost easier by placing the sieve on a wheelbarrow. Then you can spread the finished compost right away.

Frequently asked questions about turning the compost.

How many compost piles are needed?

To turn the compost, you will need at least 2 compost piles so that you can move the organic material from the semi-finished to the new compost pile. If your garden produces a lot of leaves, green cuttings or wood cuttings from trees and hedges, it may even make sense to create 3 compost bins.

How often should the compost be turned?

Experts advise turning the compost at least once a year, preferably in early spring. If you want, you can also turn the compost pile a second time in the summer or fall. Some gardeners even make the effort every few months. The more often you turn it, the faster the composting will go.

When is it time to turn?

By observation, you can tell fairly easily when it’s time to turn the compost pile. You’ll know when it’s time by the pile collapsing in on itself a bit. Take a compost thermometer with a long probe and measure the temperature. inside If it falls far below +60°C, it means the rotting process is slowing down. At the latest then it is time to move.