Here’s What To Do When Your Compost Bin Is Full 

Composting may seem like a waiting game, but even as you’re waiting for your feedstock to compost, there are still things you can do. You will need to fill your other composting units and maintain your full bin to ensure that you can harvest healthy compost. 

Here’s what to do when your compost bin is full:

  1. Cover your bin and leave it to cure.
  2. Start filling up a second composting unit.
  3. Turn your pile regularly to aerate it.
  4. Water your compost to maintain optimum moisture.
  5. Harvest completed compost from your bin.
  6. Screen the completed compost.
  7. Do a soil analysis and use the completed compost.

This article will explain each of these steps in more detail so that you know what to do when your compost bin is full. Read on.

1. Cover Your Bin and Leave It To Cure

Once your compost bin is full, you need to cover the bin and set it aside to finish composting and cure it completely. Don’t add any more feedstock to the bin once you’ve set it aside to compost.

Covering your compost has benefits regardless of whether you’re composting with or without a bin. Compost covers help reduce the overall composting time and result in hot composting, which is ideal for households. 

Hot composting involves decomposition by aerobic bacteria that heat the pile. A compost pile can reach between 135 and 160°F (57.22–71.11°C), which is hot enough to kill pathogens and weeds, resulting in a perfectly sterile, usable compost. Hot composting is quicker than cold composting; it also results in healthy compost that won’t make you sick when you handle it. 

Your compost bins need to be covered with a lid or good-quality tarp to ensure that they’re well insulated, especially if the bins are small. Compost piles on the ground are usually large enough to be self-insulating. But you can support them by adding more browns on top to help cover the greens and insulate them further. 

Once covered, your compost will go through the three phases of composting, among which the last phase—the cooling and maturation phase—is the longest. This phase is when the compost continues to decompose with the actions of the mesophilic bacteria. The phase is also known as the curing phase. Before curing, compost is only partially decomposed and not usable. 

How Long Should I Cure Compost?

Curing compost is essential to stabilizing the compost and turning it into a sterile, easy-to-handle material that won’t damage your plants or cause you to fall sick.

You should cure your compost until it cools down and gives off an earthy smell. This can take anything from 3–4 weeks or 4–12 months, depending on the size and composition of the pile. Your compost has finished curing when it stops giving off heat and has an even composition. 

You can leave your compost to cure in its original bin or move it to another covered container. 

2. Start Filling Up a Second Composting Unit

Most people start composting to find a way to use up their kitchen scraps and yard clippings. Naturally, you won’t stop having waste once your compost bin is full, so you can now start filling up a second composting unit. 

Setting up multiple units is one of the most practical ways to compost. Having three compost bins allows you to set aside your full bin to compost, fill up the second unit, and then the third when the second is full as well. By the time the third bin is full, the first bin will be ready to harvest, so you can collect your completed compost and start filling the bin again. 

If you haven’t set up a multiple bin system, you can freeze your compost scraps till you’ve got everything set up. You can also freeze all your scraps until your compost has finished decomposing.

Once the compost is done, you can harvest it and fill up the bin with the scraps you’ve saved if you have the freezer space and don’t have the room for a second composting unit.

3. Turn Your Pile Regularly To Aerate It

Turning and aerating your pile is an important task in the maintenance of your compost. If you don’t turn and aerate your compost, anaerobic decomposition could set it, or the composting process could slow down.

Turning compost introduces oxygen to your compost pile that supports the aerobic bacteria which are working on decomposing all the organic matter. It not only helps the compost pile heat up and breaks down faster, but it also helps bring down temperatures if they get higher than what the thermophilic bacteria can handle.

Turn your compost by rotating your tumbler bins on their stands. You can use shovels, bucket loaders, or specially made compost turners for compost piles in bins or on the ground.

Your compost should be turned once every few days as it’s actively composting. Once it acquires a rich dark brown color, the compost is ready to enter the curing phase. At this point, you can check on it once or twice a week to turn it over.

4. Water Your Compost To Maintain Optimum Moisture

Water is an important ingredient in your composting feedstock. Maintaining the right moisture levels is essential to ensuring that the microbes have enough water to live but aren’t drowning because of excess water.

Watering your compost depends on the composition of your compost, the weather where you are, and where your compost bin is placed. Ideally, your bin should be placed in a sheltered area to protect it from the elements. Both excess sun and excess rain can throw off your compost.

Check your compost once every few days when you go out to turn it and test the texture. Good compost is moist, not wet or soggy. It should stick lightly to itself when squeezed and have the dampness of a wrung sponge. If your compost is dripping, then it is too wet.

Be careful when handling compost, and wear gloves to ensure that your compost doesn’t make you sick.

5. Harvest Completed Compost From Your Bin

Harvesting refers to collecting your completed compost from the bin. Grab something that you can put your completed compost in. Sacks, bins, and boxes are great for collecting your completed compost.

Ensure that the containers you’re collecting your compost in are easy to move around so you can use your harvested compost easily. If you can’t do that, make sure that you harvest your compost in an open space or in your garden.

Keep yourself fully covered when you harvest the compost. Wear goggles that cover your eyes and a mask to avoid inhaling any particles. Keep your hands covered with gloves so that the particles of the compost hummus don’t enter any open cuts or your nail bed and cause infections.

Dig through your completed compost with a rake or large fork to fluff everything up, then scoop the completed compost up with a spade or shovel and put it into your collection bin.

6. Screen the Completed Compost

Screening compost is the process of running the compost through a mesh sieve to sift through it and remove partially decomposed pieces.

Larger chunks of vegetables or clumps of grass clipping might take longer to break down than the rest of your compost. Cellulose heavy materials like cardboard, twigs, and sticks also take a long time to decompose. These can be thrown back into the composting bin for a second round of composting.

Screening the compost also breaks it down into smaller particles, which can be easily used as a top dressing for garden beds and around trees, while the larger particles work better when worked into the soil.

You’ll want to take your harvested compost and run it through a half-inch mesh screen for any fine product.

7. Do a Soil Analysis and Use the Completed Compost

Just as you would analyze your soil before adding fertilizer, you should get your soil analyzed. Understanding your soil’s nutrient levels and pH values can help you decide how much compost you need to add and if you need to fortify your compost before adding it to the soil.

Compost can be used in multiple ways, both indoors and outdoors. You can mix your compost with potting soil, especially for plants that need additional water retention. It’s most effective when it’s worked into the garden bed before you plant anything.

Fine compost can be used as mulch around your plants and trees, protecting the roots of the plant and nourishing the soil slowly.

You can also use the completed compost to make compost tea by running water through the completed compost or placing the completed compost in a bag and steeping it in water. This compost tea can then be used to drench your soil and the foliage to improve nutrient retention in your plants and suppress common pests and diseases.

Final Thoughts

When your compost bin is full, you should stop adding to it, cover it, and set it aside to decompose fully. Meanwhile, you can fill up a second bin and then a third to continue using your organic waste.

Maintain your full bin by aerating and watering it every few days or as necessary till the curing process is complete. At this stage, you can harvest your compost, screen it, and use it in any way you’d like to grow your plants.

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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