Effect of turning and vessel type on compost temperatures and composition in home composting

RHS project team
Dr Paul D Alexander
Start date
31/01/2002 13:53:22
End date
31/01/2003 13:53:32

Composting, turning, vessel

The problem

The vast majority of compost research has focused on commercial-scale composting and attempts have been made previously to apply that knowledge to amateur composting. However amateur composting is potentially more variable and thus more difficult to generalize. In commercial-scale composting, size of the heap and amount of turning is critical, but should gardeners worry about the type of compost bin and whether they turn the heap?


Two specific objectives were to:

  • Measure the effects of three amateur/backyard compost vessels on compost temperature.
  • Examine the effects of turning the compost on temperature.

The experiment used three types of amateur composting vessel and examined the effects of vessel type and turning on the resultant temperature, nutrient concentrations and physical characteristics. Observations were also made on the influence of vessel type on the physical characteristics of the resultant compost and the management of the vessels.

Summary of results

The effect of vessel type produced statistically significant differences in temperature as did the effect of turning the vessels. However for all vessel types, the recorded temperatures remained around ambient and lower than necessary to kill pathogens or weeds. The choice of vessel is important but it is probably more a factor of volume than design; volume appears critical. Turning compost heaps would also appear to be worth considering as there is clearly an increase in temperature, albeit small.