Moisture plays an important role in composting process. Too dry or too wet are both unfavorable for the compost. You can test by hand and then adjust the content by turning or adding materials.
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Moisture content is a percentage of total weight of water measuring its quantity in a compost product. The ideal moisture content within a compost pile is between 40% and 60%.
If the moisture content exceeds 60%, water will displace the air in the pore spaces of the compost materials, which restricts air movement and leads to anaerobic conditions in the pile, slowing down the composting process and resulting in foul odors.
If the moisture content drops below 40%, the decomposition process will also slow as microbes are less able to carry out their metabolic activities. Below a 15% moisture content, bacterial activity ceases entirely.
With respect to handling, too wet or too dry compost are also unfavorable. If the compost is too dry, it can be dusty and irritating to work with. If too wet, then the compost can be difficult to apply. Moisture content can also affect the cost of delivery as it can affect the bulk density of compost.
Compost recipes are usually started with a higher moisture content of 55 to 60%, since as the composting proceeds, the moisture content generally decreases as heat generated by the microbial activity causes water to evaporate, whereas water added by rain or snow is less than water that is evaporated.
An easy and effective hand test is widely used in composting industry. Grab a handful of material and squeeze it. With the ideal moisture content the material holds together and feels damp to the touch but no excess water exudes from it. If water can be squeezed out, then the material is too wet. If you open your finger and the compost crumbles and falls apart, it is too dry.
Certain materials can be blended to achieve ideal moisture content. Fresh food waste contains 80 to 90% moisture, while sawdust and straw may contain only 10 percent.
If the compost is too dry, you can add more food waste or add some water. Turn it to help with the even distribution of moisture throughout the pile. If the compost is too wet, you can introduce extra air into your pile by turning or add more dry,carbon rich material, such as straw, leaves, sawdust, etc.
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