Equipment: Hand Tools

In addition to a shovel, pitchfork, and water hose, there are optional tools you may want to consider to aid your composting efforts. This page discusses thermometers, aerators, hydrometers, and pH testers / kits.


Compost thermometers are 12 - 36" long and are very good to have if you keep hot compost piles. They let you know if and when your pile heats up. When it cools down, it is time to turn the pile. Many people use their hand or arm to test the pile's heat, but high temperatures require caution. A thermometer tells you how hot it is without getting your hands dirty.


The best way to turn your pile is to use a shovel or pitchfork to move the contents into another bin. A less effective way is to just stir contents. For an alternative, the manufacturers of aerators claim to aerate a pile with less work by opening up "tunnels" so air can reach deep into the pile.

These tools take on various forms. One works somewhat like a corkscrew, another like a claw on a long handle. Yet another remains closed as it is thrust into the pile, then opens like the spokes of an umbrella as it is pulled out. A small amount of material mixing may occur, but the primary objective is to create an air shaft into the pile.

If you are not physically able to turn your pile or simply don't have the time, an aerator may be helpful to you. There is even a tool that fits on the end of a power drill which may require the least effort of all!


Hydrometers measure the moisture content of your pile. Your pile should be about as wet as a wrung out sponge. However, if you don't want to get your hands dirty testing it, the hydrometer is probably the easiest way.

pH Testers and Kits

Some composters like to test their compost for pH balance. The process of composting results in a balanced pH unless the bulk of the input matter was high in acid. However, if you have a pH problem or plants highly sensitive to pH, you may want to have a way to check your compost. I have seen a gadget that sticks into the pile or ground that is supposed to measure pH. I have also seen a kit with chemicals using water extraction that is supposed to give pH levels. Some composters use litmus paper. I have no information on the accuracy of any of these methods.

Online Stores
Compost Tea eBook
Build a brewer with a bucket and less than $15 worth of components, and make aerated compost tea.
Composting the Holidays eBook
Compost fall leaves, hay bales, holly wreaths, pine trees, etc. Compost pumpkins (food waste) in a compost pile.



  1. Types of Manufactured Bins
  2. Build a Bin
  3. Sifters and Screens
  4. ** Hand Tools **
  5. Chippers / Shredders

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