“Now that my worms are producing plenty of good compost and the gardening season is over; Is there a good guideline on how to store the compost for the next growing season so that it is still as beneficial and doesn’t develop mold etc.? Thanks I have really benefited from all you newsletters.” ~ Linda
Good question, Linda.
I actually wrote about this topic recently on my blog. There are definitely some guidelines you can keep in mind when it comes to storing compost.
For starters, it is really important that you do NOT seal the material in an air-tight container or bag. Many people seem to assume this approach will cause the compost to enter some sort of cryogenic, suspended animation state – with all the freshness sealed in. 🙂
Unfortunately – unlike a can of Nabob (coffee) – when you open the compost container several months later, you will more than likely be greeted by the stench of anaerobiosis.
Sealing the material will only serve to kill off all (or at least most) of the beneficial, aerobic microorganisms it contains – obviously not a good thing. Anaerobic processes can also result in the production of phytotoxic susbtances (such as alcohols etc), which, as the name implies, can end up harming your plants.
You can certainly keep the compost in a bag or tub – and this is actually a great way to prevent it from drying out too much – just make sure to add a sufficient number of air holes.
While you don’t want it to dry out too much, you also don’t want to store it soaking wet, since it won’t likely matter how many air holes you add – the material will still go anaerobic. I personally feel that a good compost for storage shouldn’t really feel moist at all – perhaps something akin to a summer garden soil (contains moisture but doesn’t leave your hands wet).
If your compost is really mature – in other words, most of the organic wastes have been converted into a dark humus-like material – you shouldn’t have too many issues with mold growth. If on the other hand, the compost still contains lots of unprocessed material, it may be a challenge to prevent this from happening (although keeping the moisture content quite low should help). The types of materials you use to make the compost will make a big difference in terms of its potential for mold growth. Higher C:N ratio materials and mixtures are more likely to encourage fungal growth.
Hope this helps!