I have a small open compost bin, it's now full with layers of brown and green. I read somewhere that I need to turn it occasionally (weekly is ideal), and that I need to keep a 1-4" layer of browns (shredded newspaper is good) on top to prevent bugs/pests/etc.

How do I reconcile these two? Turning it will mix everything up and will disrupt the layer on top. Do I need to then re-layer it on top? I didn't leave that much space.

  • FWIW, I use leaves for browns. I bin up enough in the fall to mix in and top off as I get greens during the year.
    – Ed Staub
    May 22 '12 at 14:00

The ideal time to turn it is after the temperature starts to drop. Depending on your recipe, this may take more or less than a week.

As far as not having space, the pile will magically shrink as it composts. By the time it's done, it will generally reduce in volume by 1/3.

When you turn it, you have options:

  1. Don't worry about re-covering it with browns. You may end up with bugs if you leave bug food on the surface. You could put a lid
  2. Cover it with a thin layer of browns -- whatever fits after you've turned it, even if it's just ½".
  3. Cover it with a thin layer of garden soil.
  4. Wait to turn it until it has reduced in size.
  5. Don't fully turn it; give it a stir so that you get some air mixed into the center.

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