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Ask the Gardeners: When Is My Compost Ready?

Want to know more about gardening organically, culinary therapy, putting worms in your compost or how to make fudge from vegetables? Whatever your curiosity, drop us a line and one of our kitchen gardeners will feature your question here in our column!

Q: I’m new to composting this year and am ready to plant my lettuce container gardens. Question is, how do I know my compost is ready? Some have said it’s obvious and others are suggesting I test the ph and all sorts of other complexities. Can you garden gurus help me read between the lines please!

-Huntley F. Solana Beach, CA

Garden Eats: Awesome question Huntley- you’re about the tenth person to ask! We offered a post earlier this year about getting your compost going, so if you started then, it’s definitely ready (if you’ve been turning it regularly)!

If you started composting late however, some could be ready and some not. Separate the moist dark matter from the unfinished pieces. Toss back the unfinished and keep them turning!

Compost is ready when:

  • it is  moist & dark
  • it has a slightly earthy smell
  • you generally can’t tell what the ingredients originally were


If your compost is ready early enough next year, consider forking it into your garden plot(s) or pots several weeks beforehand to acclimate to the soil it’s being mixed with. Simply put, this will help the microbiology of your garden balance out in relation to your geographical region.

This entry was posted in: Ask Garden Eats


C H R I S T I N E Dionese, co-founder of flavor ID and Garden Eats is an integrative health & food therapy specialist, medical & food journalist. She has dedicated her career to helping others understand the science of happiness and its powerful effects on everyday human health by harnessing the power of the epigenetic landscape. To balance the more serious side of her work, she loves to concoct, write about and connect people through food & drink. You can check out her latest work at The Chalkboard Magazine, The Fullest and Rochester's Boomtown Table. Christine lives, works and plays between Southern California & Upstate New York.

1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Garden Update « After the Ecstasy, the Laundry . . .

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