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During summer my compost bin dries out considerably and slows down. We have hot dry summers.

What should I do to keep the compost moist? Should I add water or will this rinse nutrients away?

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up vote 13 down vote accepted

To retain moisture, you can cover your compost bin with a tarp, an old carpet, or something similar. This will keep the moisture from getting baked out by the sun. If you get a lot of wind, a (partially) enclosed bin can help keep the wind from sucking moisture out.

You can safely add quite a bit of water to dry compost before any nutrients will rinse away. A handful of compost should be about the consistency of a damp sponge. What I do is add water when I turn the pile: I turn the hose on a little bit, set it in the spot where the pile is going to be, and start shoveling material onto it. After a couple of inches of depth, I raise the hose, so the water trickles into the center of the pile. Then shovel some more, repeatedly lifting the hose every couple inches of depth. This way, the whole height of the pile gets some moisture.

If it has been hot, and we haven't had any rain, I'll also dump waste water onto the pile. (E.g. soiled water from animal buckets.)

Or you can just wait. If your pile is slow and you're not in a hurry, it's not going to hurt anything.

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