Turning the compost was done three times: To insure uniform decomposition, to restore moisture and air, and to supply massive quantities of those types of microbes needed to take the composting process to its next stage.
The first turn was at about sixteen days. A second mass inoculation equivalent to a few wheelbarrows full of 30 day old composting material was taken from an adjacent pit and spread thinly over the surface of the pit being turned. Then, one half of the pit was dug out with a manure fork and placed atop the first half. A small quantity of water was added, if needed to maintain moisture. Now the compost occupied half the pit, a space about 15 x 14 and was about three feet high, rising out of the earth about one foot. During the monsoons when heaps were used, the above-ground piles were also mass inoculated and then turned so as to completely mix the material, and as we do today, placing the outside material in the core and vice-versa.
One month after starting, or about two weeks after the first turn, the pit or heap would be turned again. More water would be added. This time the entire mass would be forked from one half the pit to the other and every effort would be made to fluff up the material while thoroughly mixing it. And a few loads of material were removed to inoculate a 15-day-old pit.
Another month would pass, or about two months after starting, and for the third time the compost would be turned and then allowed to ripen. This time the material is brought out of the pit and piled atop the earth so as to increase aeration. At this late stage there would be no danger of encouraging high temperatures but the increased oxygen facilitated nitrogen fixation. The contents of several pits might be combined to form a heap no larger than 10 x 10 at the base, 9 x 9 on top, and no more than 3-1/2 feet high. Again, more water might be added. Ripening would take about one month. Howard's measurements showed that after a month's maturation the finished compost should be used without delay or precious nitrogen would be lost. However, keep in mind when considering this brief ripening period that the heap was already as potent as it could become. Howard's problem was not further improving the C/N, it was conservation of nitrogen.