Joe and I have been on a long and tireless search for a compost thermometer ever since we started composting our kitchen food scraps and paper/cardboard wastes at home.

However, do note that a compost thermometer is not really necessary in Singapore, as our hot and humid tropical climate is already ideal for composting. Usually in temperate climates, one would require a compost thermometer to monitor the activity of a compost pile – a warm temperature (32ºC and above) means that the pile is composting rapidly, whereas a cool/cold temperature means that the compost pile is inactive.

So why are we still looking for a compost thermometer in Singapore?

Followers of this blog would have noticed that we are trying out a “lazy” method of composting: normal and recommended composting methods require the compost materials to be mixed before adding into the bin. The bins also needs some turning and mixing occasionally to keep the compost aerated.

However, we have decided to be “rebels” by composting our stuff in layers – simply dumping the raw food scraps/waste into the compost pile and then covering it with a thick layer of ‘browns‘. We repeat this again when there are new food scraps to be added.

Why are we doing this? First, we would like to assure you that we are not composters-gone-mad 🙂 We are simply conducting our humble research to see if composting could work even for a person who is considerably “lazy” or “unmotivated” to compost in a tropical climate like Singapore. This target group includes: busy working adults, housewives and unmotivated teens who might just want to get rid of food waste the easiest way besides trashing them down the rubbish chute.

If you think about it, a large percentage of our fellow Singaporeans today still have a long way to go about adapting a green lifestyle, even at home. By purposefully creating our compost pile in layers and not mixing/turning the pile, we are simulating a composting method which is considerably most hassle-free.

The outcome? Click here to view the results that run in chronological order, with the latest updates at the top.

So in summary, Joe and I have decided to get a compost thermometer to closely monitor our compost piles that are subjected to this “lazy” experiment. We did have some clear observations that indicated an active compost pile, but we also learnt that temperature is one of the best ways to tell if your compost pile is working or not: as the microorganisms work to decompose the compost, they give off heat which in turn increases pile temperatures. Temperatures between 32ºC and 60ºC indicate rapid decomposition. Lower temperatures signal a slowing in the composting process.

The bad (and annoying) news is that it is very difficult – or rather, seemingly impossible – to find a compost thermometer in Singapore. We did countless searches online, and even visited a number of gardening and eco-related shops. Yet to no avail. Compost thermometers only seem to be available through online purchases on foreign websites. Nevertheless, we checked them out and did the math – the average cost of the cheaper-range compost thermometers are at least SGD$30 (includes shipping).

And no, you can’t make do with the common school laboratory or body thermometers in Singapore. Compost thermometers require a long probe (usually about 20 inches) so that you can check the temperature of your thick compost pile accurately. Besides, the long probe allows you to insert the thermometer into different parts of your thick compost pile at varying angles – you may find that some parts of the compost pile are warmer (more active) than others!

Of course, there are other technologically savvy compost thermometers out there (check out these crazy stuff), but we are not die-hard Scientific composters. We just want a simple composting process that we can enjoy and easily manage at home 🙂

However at this juncture, we are unable to spend too much on a compost thermometer or wait too long for one to arrive. So we decided to try an alternative – a meat thermometer.

Nope, we thought long and hard about it.

Meat thermometers generally have long probes, are cheaper, and can be found in Singapore. We did a quick search online and immediately struck gold. Although meat thermometers are still relatively difficult to find as compared to body thermometers, they are still available – if you know where to look. Moreover, Singaporeans are meat-lovers too! We do crave some ham, turkey, lamb, roast chicken or steak every now and then 😉

So this afternoon, at precisely 2.47pm, I purchased my first meat thermometer. It so happened that I chanced upon a housewife’s online advertisement last week, which stated that she was selling a brand new meat thermometer for only SGD$8. The reason? She was clearing her house in preparation for some renovation coming up.

*does a happy jiggly dance*

I managed to grab some pictures of the thermometer online (my camera phone is totally unreliable). Here is how it looks like:

Admittedly, we still wish we could use a proper compost thermometer instead. But we decided to give this a shot for now, and we promise detailed updates on it soon!

What we like about this thermometer:

  • Superbly cheap (only SGD$8) and we could collect it right away
  • It has a considerably long probe (4.5 inches), especially for a new compost pile that is just starting out
  • It will be able to measure the temperature of a very active compost pile
  • It has a dial face that is similar to that of a compost thermometer – when the probe is inserted into the compost pile, the dial face of the thermometer can be easily seen and read from above
  • It comes in stainless steel
  • It is very hardy, since this thermometer is suitable to be used and read even in a closed oven (for meats)

What we know is lacking in this thermometer:

  • The 4.5-inch probe will be too short for high/thick compost piles
  • It will not be able to measure compost temperatures below 54ºC – this can be troublesome because the temperature range for an active compost pile is usually from 32ºC and above

What happens if this meat thermometer proves itself to be completely useless as a compost thermometer alternative?

Well, Joe is a superb steak chef at home, and our families love to dig into roast turkey, beef and ham every Christmas. This thermometer will still come in handy afterall 😉

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