When is the compost "finished"? It is finished when you cannot tell what it was before it was placed in the pile. If you can see that they were leaves and stems or roots, it is not totally finished.

The next question is, "Does it need to be finished?" The answer to that is, "No." Depending on your needs, you can use the products of the compost pile almost anywhere along the line. Even with the best of techniques, unless you are willing to grind and regrind the raw materials, it will take a full year or more to get to a finished compost.

If you need to have a fine textured product for use in containers or prefer to use that in the garden, you can use a screen to sort out the coarser material. That can be returned to the pile for further processing.

Many people prefer to use compost when it can be called "leaf mold" which is a partially decomposed product. In it, you can still see the veins and edges of the leaves and it has a rather coarse texture.

Using Compost in the Home Landscape

Note: We have provided some general information and observations on this topic aimed at the home gardener. Before you take any serious action in your landscape, check with your state's land grant university's Cooperative Extension Service for the most current, appropriate, localized recommendations.

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