A compost turner or aerator is made explicitly for loosening the packed compost layers, creating air pockets by simply turning the compost. The best compost aerators are the Yard Butler Aerator, Bosmere P845, and the Lotech Products Twist Compost Aerator.
A compost aerator works five times faster than a pitchfork, but you can still use a pitchfork if you have extra energy and time to spend.
A good compost aerator shouldn’t be complex. It should be easy to use and efficient in terms of energy input. Not everything with a golden sticker in a garden store is a compost aerator. It should be ergonomic.
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What Is a Compost Aerator?
It’s a garden tool designed for turning a composting pile. It’s similar to the pitchfork or the garden shovel you use to turn compost, only advanced and less time and energy-consuming.
There’re two types of aerators:
- Corkscrew aerators
- Plunger compost aerator
The difference is in how they work.
1. Corkscrew aerators
With a corkscrew aerator, you need to push it on the compost pile, turn the hand, and the aerator will sink into the pile. Then, pull it out. It’s similar to how you use a corkscrew to open a bottle.
As you pull the aerator, the titled spikes bring the bottom compost layers to the surface.
This aerator works best for dense compost piles with large chunks of organic matter.
3. Plunger compost aerator
The mechanism is different for a compost plunger. It has two tines that fold when you push the aerator into the pile and open when you pull it out. This way, the tines bring to the surface the underground layers.
However, the plunger is not the best for dense compost. It requires more strength to pierce through the pile and pull it out. Nonetheless, it works great for a small and less dense compost pile.
How to Use a Compost Aerator
The best part about a compost aerator is that they’re simple to use. Only three steps are required.
Step 1. Inject the plunger into the compost pile.
Step 2. Turn the plunger 3-4 times using the handles.
Step 3. Pull the plunger sharply. Repeat the process every 6-10 inches until the whole pile is turned.
The above steps work for both a compost plunger and a corkscrew turner.
Do Compost Aerators Work?
Yes, they do. Try out one of these aerators; you’ll no longer want to hear about a pitchfork or a shovel when turning compost.
Proper compost aeration is crucial for maintaining healthy and active microbial activity. The bacteria that decompose the organic materials into nutrients need oxygen (aeration), and if it’s in short supply, it means the microbes won’t work properly.
A compost turner or aerator is made explicitly for loosening the packed compost layers, creating air pockets by simply turning the compost.
Plus, a compost turner is ergonomically designed to make the work easy, comfortable, and with minimum energy input.
How Often Should You Aerate Your Compost?
A compost thermometer will tell you when. The best time to turn your compost is when the heat starts to drop (below 100 °F).
When the temperature drops, the bacteria need more oxygen, a fresh supply of organic matter (the outer compost layers), and maybe little moisture.
If you lack a thermometer, try to turn the compost once after two weeks. Remember to add water to the compost if it’s too dry. The compost should be 40-60 % moisture.
- Overturning your compost will also prevent the compost from heating and the microbes from decomposing the materials.
- Proper turning helps maintain the compost heat, which speeds up the decomposing process, especially if you’re using a compost bin. The heat also helps to kill any harmful pathogens and pests that might be present in the composting materials.
How Do You Aerate a Large Compost Pile?
Consider one of the two ways: the first one requires an empty compost bin or space; for the other one, you need a power planter.
You need an empty compost bin. If the compost pile is bigger, you’ll need an open space to pour the pile on.
- Starting the outer layer of the pile, transfer the compost heap to the open space or into the empty bin.
- The layer should go at the center of the empty bin, while the already composted materials from the center of the pile make up the outer layer. This way, the compost’s interior is brought to the surface.
You’ll need a power planter and a power drill (I recommend the cordless one, it’s safer).
The size of the power planter will depend on how large the compost is; there’re various sizes on Amazon.
- Attach the power planter to the electric driller.
- Turn on the driller. Periodically push and pull the planter into the compost, as you would with a corkscrew aerator until the compost is completely turned.
The Best Compost Aerators: My Recommendation
There’re three factors to consider before buying a compost aerator tool:
- The type of aerator
- How it’s designed
- It’s quality
- Warranty, reviews, price
As I had mentioned, there’re two types of aerators:
- Corkscrew aerator
- Compost plunger aerator
I recommend the compost plunger if you have a small compost bin or pile. But, if the compost is denser and bigger, the corkscrew aerator will work best.
Aerators range from 12-38 inches long. Some are ergonomically designed with padded handles for comfortable grips.
Consider going for the aerator that best suits your height. An aerator that you can use without having to bend much.
Go for the stainless steel aerator; it’s the best. They’re strong and long-lasting for heavy-duty tasks, especially when turning large compost piles.
Aluminum-made aerators are also best for small compost piles since they’re lighter than steel aerators.
4. Warranty, reviews, price
The other things to consider, particularly if you’re buying the aerator online, are the product’s warranty, customer reviews, and price.
With the above point in mind, check out my list of the best compost aerators.
1. Yard Butler Compost Aerator
Design: the tines are 7 inches wide; the height is 38 inches
Quality: it’s stainless steel, suitable for heavy-duty turning
2. Bosmere P845 Compost Aerator
Design: 36 inches long with vinyl grip handles
Quality: it’s stainless steel
3. Lotech Products Compost Crank Twist Compost Aerator
Design: it’s 46 inches long
Quality: it’s stainless and weighs 2 pounds