I recently acquired 5 cubic yards of compost. I'd hoped to use this immediately on my small zone 6 property for some garden bed and sheet mulching projects. However, I've since been injured and may not be able to work with it until mid-summer. What's the best way to preserve this for future use? I'm thinking of covering it with some cover crop seeds to prevent weeds from taking root.

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There are several concerns when you store compost:

  • A lot of moisture (e.g. repeated rain storms) falling on top of it can wash away some of the elements that you are hoping to add to your soil.
  • There are beneficial microbes in the pile that will live at about 60 degrees and will die if exposed to extreme high or low temperatures.
  • Too little moisture, especially for an extended length of time, also creates an environment where the beneficial microbes will die.
  • The needs some oxygen to help keep the beneficial microbes alive.

Given this question is being asked in the late spring and you appear to be in the Northeast USA, the worry of extreme cold is mostly gone. To protect the pile from too much moisture and to protect the pile from evaporation you could put a plastic tarp over the top, but there is a risk the pile will get too hot if the pile gets direct sun. A permeable cloth tarp, burlap sack (like from coffee shops), or a scrap of carpet could be a good, partially breathable solution that would hopefully not heat up too much.

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