Monday, July 9, 2012

How to Make Hot Compost

Hot compost can be made in a backyard compost pile in as little as 2 months. It involves layering compost ingredients in the right order, keeping the pile moist and circulating with air, and a little patience. In 6 easy to follow steps, finished compost can be added to the garden during the same growing season the pile was started in.

Hot Compost Supplies

  • Brown Ingredients
  • Green Ingredients
  • Straw or Brown Hay*
  • Garden Soil (1 to 2 Shovels Worth)
  • 3 foot x 3 foot Space for Compost Pile

List of Compost Ingredients - This post lists both brown and green ingredients for an easy reference.

Steps to Make Hot Compost

Step 1: Make a Straw/Hay Base

Spread a layer of straw/hay in the 3' x 3' space. The straw will act as a base for the pile and keep the rest of the ingredients off of the ground. Make the base about 3 to 4 inches thick.

Step 2: Building the Pile

  • Add green ingredients to the top of the base measuring a few inches thick
  • Add a thin layer of soil over the greens
  • Add a layer of brown materials (for larger materials such as dry leaves, shred them first so they’ll decompose faster)
  • Moisten the compost pile

Tip: Keep a 3:1 ratio of brown ingredients to green ingredients

Step 3: Growing the Hot Compost Pile

Continue adding layers in the order listed under step 2 topping off the brown materials with a thin layer of straw until the compost pile is roughly 3 feet high. Add the layers as the ingredients become available. It’s okay to stockpile ingredients in a separate pile for a short period of time until enough of them have been collected to add to the pile.

FYI: The thin layer of straw helps to promote air circulation throughout the hot compost pile.

Step 4: Turn the Pile

Turn the pile, a pitchfork works well, every 2 weeks. Make sure the center of the pile is worked to the edges and the edges of the pile are worked to the center. Turning the pile helps promote air circulation and speeds up the decomposition process.

Step 5: Water the Pile

Moisture is an important factor in hot composting. Keep the pile moist but don’t over do it. The ingredients in the compost pile should feel moist to the touch but not soggy.

Step 6: Use the Finished Compost

The center of the hot compost pile will decompose faster than the edges. When the center turns into finished compost, scoop out the material and leave the still decomposing edges in the pile. Use the unfinished compost to start a new pile.

Signs the Compost Pile is Getting Hot

Steam is a good indication that the compost pile is starting to get hot. Look for steam while mixing the pile for the first time. Earthworms are also a good sign; not that the pile is getting hot but that it’s going to start breaking down.

* Straw is sold at garden centers and mulch hay is available from landscaping companies, farms and some construction companies.

Additional Composting Articles

Reference: Organic Gardening (2007). Make Compost in 14 Days. Rodale Inc

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