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How and When to Use a Resting Pile

Your resting pile can look like a heap, be enclosed in another bin, or added directly into an unused garden bed or a garden bed that you will not plant until next spring. You can tarp it or leave your resting pile open, though covering it will prevent the leaching of valuable nutrients. You can even build a simple three-sided structure for larger resting piles to make them more attractive but still provide easy access for gardeners harvesting finished compost.

Technically, a resting pile should contain material that has been through a complete cycle of turnings over the course of 6–10 weeks. Mature compost is dark brown, crumbly in texture, and should not be warmer than the ambient temperature. If your compost is still hot, it is still working too hard to be resting. Even mature compost that has fully rotted down and is now cool and crumbly should cure for an additional 3-4 weeks on its own just to ensure that decomposition is complete and you won’t risk tying up nitrogen or harming seedlings upon application to an active garden bed.

Even so, your resting pile may still have item like apple cores, fruit pits, leaves, certainly wood chips, and other items that need more time to break down. This is normal, as your compost has not fully matured yet. You can either screen the undecomposed material out and return it to an active compost bin or leave it in there. Screening the material will create a finished product faster and offer more effective compost overall. Leaving undecomposed material in there will limit your compost to a top dressing, and even then, it should be overwintered.

In the fall, apply your RESTING PILE compost directly to unused garden beds. Cover RESTING PILE compost with hay, straw, leaves, or wetted, shredded newspaper. This will insulate your compost so that it can continue to break down over the winter. Come spring when you are ready to plant, rake any recognizable or immature material and throw back it into your ADD HERE bin for further processing.

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