Do I Need to Water My Compost Bin?

Do I Need to Water My Compost Bin? (And How Often You Should Water)

It is critical to maintaining a compost heap’s water and temperature equilibrium. Do I need to water my compost bin? The short answer is, yes. Water is required by bacteria to aid in the decomposition process, however, too much water may stymie or totally halt the process. Water should be added sparingly and often, but only as needed.

A thin somewhat rusty iron rod approximately 4 feet long is an excellent composting tool. Push the rod into the pile with your finest rapier thrust technique, feeling the consistency of the materials as you do so. Perhaps you detect twigs and other brittle material, or perhaps it is constantly smooth and open. Push the rod in and it will go and then draw it out, inspecting the rod’s surface for indications of physical water or dryness. Then reintroduce the rod and let it there for a half hour. Withdraw again and feel the warmth of the rusty rod, letting your hands pleasantly filthy and feeling the quality of your compost through which it went. If your hands get very smeary, the pile is probably already too moist and needs drying and rebuilding.

The engine is not operating if the rod feels cold or just slightly heated. Perhaps it has reached the end of its decomposition cycle, or it is time to rebuild your heap, and moisturizing however not wetting as necessary. Buckets of water are needed only if the pile is very hot and demonstrates a dry rod test.

In fact, compost bins are structures that aid in the decomposition process.

Bins are also useful for deterring rats and other rodents from attacking your compost. While this varies depending on the kind of bin structure used, bins make it more difficult for rats to enter than ‘heaps’ or ‘piles’ do.

Therefore, should I water my compost bin?

You should add water to your compost bin if it is too dry.

You should, however, use caution while watering your stuff.

Excessive water may deplete the pile of oxygen, allowing dangerous bacteria to flourish. In such circumstances, these bacteria are known to generate a variety of disagreeable odors.

Insufficient water may also be detrimental to your compost. Your pile will take longer to decompose than anticipated.

We’ll cover the function water plays, the proper quantity to use, and what to do if your pile becomes too wet or too dry in this tutorial. Continue reading to learn more about compost moisture levels.

Water’s Function

Water is a critical component in composting. Microorganisms that break down organic waste in the compost pile require water for the exact same reason that all living things require water.

A constant supply of water promotes the growth of the organisms, resulting in fast composting. Additionally, water aids in controlling the pile’s temperature. Temperature, like water, is critical to the effectiveness of composting.

To sustain composting conditions, the pile’s temperature should not exceed 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

Overly high temperatures may result in the extinction of beneficial species. If the heat does not disperse or the temperature drops to about 120 degrees Fahrenheit after rotating the pile, water may be required.

When the temperature begins to fall, the compost will continue to gently stabilize. The organic materials will then be ready for use in your garden after a sequence of chemical processes.

What Is the Appropriate Water Amount to Use?

Appropriate watering is critical for compost formation. According to experts, the optimum moisture level for the pile throughout its development and subsequent stages should be between 50-60 percent.

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However, how can one determine the moisture level of a compost pile? Easy. Put on gloves and compress some compost from the middle of the mound firmly in your hand. If water begins to run from the pile or more than four droplets occur, the pile is excessively moist. If you are unable to extract any water from the compost, it is very dry.

Your compost pile should have the consistency of a wet and wrung-out sponge.

Excessive water

As previously mentioned, excessive moisture deprives the bacteria responsible for the breakdown of oxygen. As you are probably aware, these creatures need water and proper ventilation.

If your bin is completely saturated, it will fill air gaps with water. Aerobic organisms will essentially drown and perish.

And anaerobes flourish in low-oxygen environments since they do not need oxygen for development. Additionally, they do not digest organic matter as efficiently as aerobes do. Anaerobes produce hydrogen sulfide, which stinks up your compost container.

Bear in mind that materials rich in nitrogen, such as vegetable peelings, grass clippings, lettuce, and peaches, contain a large amount of water. As a result, they must be properly balanced with carbon-rich dry materials.

When combining fresh and dry materials in an enclosed plastic compost container, caution should be used. Because these bins allow for less air to enter, it is critical to maintaining an appropriate ratio of browns and greens.

Additionally, you should avoid shoving items into the bin in order for them to fit all at once. This may result in an over-compacted compost pile and the development of anaerobic bacteria.

While compost is somewhat acidic, an excessive amount of water may throw the balance off. This may result in an overly acidic compost bin. Add handfuls of wood ash, corncobs, and other browns to the pile to neutralize the acidity and resume the composting process.


If your bin becomes too moist, aerate the pile. Turn the compost pile using a pitchfork or shovel to ensure an equal dispersion of air and moisture. To absorb excess moisture, use dry items such as wood chips, dried leaves, or straw newspapers. Continue this procedure until the whole pile is as wet as a wet, wrung-out sponge.

If you live in a location that receives a lot of rain, you may cover the compost bin with your tarp. When it rains, nutrients and vital bacteria tend to seep. Excessive water also retards the breakdown process.

Insufficient water

If there is insufficient water in your pile, it will not degrade as fast as it should. When less heat is produced, microorganisms may not grow or reproduce as easily.

As a result, the breakdown process is slowed.

In the worst-case situation, it will destroy the beneficial bacteria and other necessary organisms, preventing you from getting compost for your garden.


When the weather is hot, some parts of the compost pile degrade more quickly than others. Therefore, to prevent uneven decomposition, if feasible, moisten the pile with rainfall. If rainfall is scarce, ordinary water will suffice.

You should use caution while watering a compost bin to prevent it from becoming soggy. Using a drilled pipe, sprinkler as an injection probe, plus anything else that gently delivers water will enter and not leak out the pile.

Check the compost pile’s core to ensure it is wet. If the pile is dry, you may need to remove a few layers/turn it, moisten the bottom half, and then re-add layers as you proceed.

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Alternatively, you may add some coffee grounds, vegetables, fruit leftovers, grass clippings, or any other wet green material to balance the components.

Separately, twice a week, move dry materials outside to the center of the pile. It is strongly advised to keep the bin out of direct sunlight. A tarp over the top is also a nice idea, but not required. It assists in keeping the pile cool and moist during the hot, dry months.

Additionally, ensure that the compost bin comes with drainage holes to allow for the drainage of leachate (a liquid that can collect at the bottom of the bin). If your bin is completely enclosed, drill some holes in the bottom. Additionally, moistening dry materials since they are added is critical for successful composting.

How To Determine Whether Your Compost Is OK

Compost can take anywhere from six months to two years to complete.

Compost that has been finished or is ready to use has a rich, earthy aroma. It should be black and crumbly in appearance. The pile should have halved in size, and the majority of the organic stuff should be unrecognizable.

Compostable Materials

Brown materials that are recommended include the following:

  • Eggshells
  • Straw
  • Hay
  • Chips of wood
  • Pine cones
  • Sawdust
  • Products made of paper
  • Leaves that have been dried

Among the environmentally friendly materials recommended are the following:

  • Branches of leafy plants
  • Clippings of grass
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • grinds for coffee
  • Filters
  • Hair
  • Fur
  • Scraps from the kitchen.

Items to Avoid Including in Your Compost

  • Rodents and flies are attracted to oils, grease, fats, fish bones, meat, eggs, dairy products, and leftovers. Additionally, the odor may be an issue.
  • Certain tree leaves, such as black walnut, may generate noxious chemicals.
  • Charcoal barbeque ashes, wood stove ashes, and fireplace ashes.
  • Charcoal grills contain sulfur oxides, but wood ash is really alkaline and is only appropriate for soils with a pH of less than 6.5. Anything more than 6.5 may obstruct plant development.
  • Pet, avian, and human waste may include pathogenic germs and parasites that are not destroyed during decomposition.
  • Grass seeds.
  • They may grow after composting.
  • Plant material that is diseased or infected by insects.
  • Pathogens may survive in the composting process and infect subsequent plants.
  • Yard/plant clippings that have been treated.
  • Pesticides have the potential to destroy microorganisms.

How can I determine whether my compost needs watering?

How do you tell when it’s time to water your compost pile? The majority of professional composters recommend a moisture level of 40% to 60%. A simple visual inspection with your hands should reveal whether the pile is excessively dry: it will be cold and show no signs of organic material breakdown. If your compost is excessively moist, it will likely be sticky and odorous. The sponge test is an excellent guideline to follow: your compost must have the consistency as well as moisture level of a web, wrung-out sponge when squeezed. There are compost moisture meters available, however, they are more helpful for professional composters. They are not required for a home composter who will determine the status of their pile based on their senses (they also need several readings – one section of your pile may be wetter than another — and are often rather costly).

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What should I do if my compost heap is quite dry?

Any Solutions? Easy, when your compost is too dry, moisten your compost from the top down till the ideal “wrung sponge” consistency is achieved. At this stage, a good turning will assist in the equal distribution of moisture. When your compost is too moist, add newspaper, dark (unbleached) cardboard, or chopped straw (avoid seeds if possible). The goal is to open up the inside of your pile to allow more air to flow. Adding air to your pile by rotating it may also assist. The optimum time to get the ideal moisture content for your pile is during construction. Once a pile is correctly begun, it virtually self-maintains itself (minus that turning). Additionally, if you live in a rainy coastal area, there is a risk that your pile may be excessively moist due to regular rainfall. Covering your compost pile with straw or a tarp will aid in this process. Additionally, it will aid with heat containment.

One of the most effective methods of retaining the moisture content of your compost is to treat it in a tumbler or compost bin. Not only will it assist your compost in retaining moisture that would otherwise be lost to evaporation, but it will also make turning — the introduction of air — simple. Additionally, if you live in an area with frequent rain, it will keep moisture away from your compost. In fact, This summer, some of us can fathom such a scenario.

How often do you water your compost bin?

How often we should turn compost is determined by a variety of variables, including the pile’s size, the ratio of green to brown material, and the quantity of moisture in the pile. Having said that, it’s a good rule of thumb to turn a compost heap every 3 to 4 days. Because your compost develops, you may reduce the frequency with which you turn the tumbler or pile.

Final Remarks

Even if your compost pile is neglected once it is constructed, decomposition will proceed, albeit at a slower pace. Accelerating the process is as simple as adding water to maintain the moist conditions and rotating the pile to promote aeration. Squeeze a handful of compost to determine the moisture level of the pile. Moisture is approximately correct if a few droplets of water will be squeezed out. If no droplets fall, the pile is considered to be excessively dry. If water drips from the pile, the pile is overly moist. During rainy weather, cover the compost pile using plastic or other materials to prevent excessive moisture accumulation.

Flipping piles is accomplished by slicing them open with a spade plus turning over each slice. Turning has two primary purposes: to aerate the compost pile and to move materials from the outside into the center, where they may be heated and decomposed. Mist dry areas of the pile with water while rotating.

You want to maintain a wet but not soggy compost. The compost is broken down by living creatures, which will perish if the compost pile is allowed to dry up. Therefore, you should water it as often as necessary to keep it wet.

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