Hot compost

trivedi_south(8)May 15, 2011

I don't have a composter or a compost bin (trying to work towards that).

I just throw all my organic waste with dried leaves and some greens into a pile in backyard and try to turn it every so often.

What I notice is that my compost is not *warm*.

What makes compost warm? Should the pile of waste be closer/tighter? Is it too scattered? Is something missing in the bin (greens or dried leaves or organic waste)...I am not using any particular combination....should I?

Is this this tricky? :-(

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I do pretty much the same thing except that I confine the pile within a circle of fence wire. very simple. Anything will do. If you happen to have a bunch of junk lumber you can make a bin of that. Also, I have worm bins in the basement and feed most of the garbage to them, but there is more than I need for this purpose so I put the rest in the compost piles outdoors. When I dig into the pile to make a cavity for what I am adding I always find it hot and steamy just 6 or 8 inches deep. The garbage consists of coffee grounds, including filter, banana peels, anything of that nature. Not tricky at all.

Dave Nelson

    Bookmark   May 16, 2011 at 9:04AM
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Thank You Dave Nelson.
Another quick question. The green grass clippings I get from my neigbor and my yard...both of us use "true green" company to maintain lawn. So essentially the green clippings would be toxic and cannot be used for composting...correct?

    Bookmark   May 16, 2011 at 10:59AM
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I'm really not qualified to answer that question but I would use it. I think the chemical leaches out in the rain and air. Or, you could spread it out and let it sit for a few days before adding it to the compost.


    Bookmark   May 16, 2011 at 11:40AM
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I make hot compost all at once, and let it "cook" until it is finished. I have a 40 gallon rubbermaid trash can I fill with leaves 3 or 4 times over. I dump the leaves out, spreading them in green grass that I've let grow pretty tall. Then I mow it all together, making sure the grass is damp before I mow it (not soaked). Then I rake it all up into a big pile and leave it. It gets hot, I mean really hot. In about 5-7 days, I'll take a fork and turn/mix the whole pile and it will heat up again. Just repeat the process until the pile no longer heats up when it is turned. Then, that pile is "done," and you can make another one. Just the way I do it, and it is a little more work than "cold" composting where you just periodically add stuff to an already existing pile.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2011 at 12:28PM
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Thank you all. Appreciate all your help.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2011 at 1:49PM
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Caigode: One question: DO you turn your compost every so often? I tried turning and it is very hard/heavy...but I keep trying anyhow.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2011 at 3:17PM
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plumiebear(z9? CA)

cheap DIY compost tumbler

Just don't fill it...maybe 3/4 full?


    Bookmark   May 16, 2011 at 8:05PM
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Thank you Andrew...this (the easy DIY tumbling compost bin) is something I can totally do!

Thanks again.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2011 at 11:01PM
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trivedi, yes, I turn the compost about every week until it no longer heats up. At that time, it's finished and ready for use and feeding to worms. I turn it with a 4 prong fork. It's not heavy if you take it small chunks at a time. Just start on top one fork full at a time re-piling it until you're done. Moisten as you go if needed, but don't soak it.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2011 at 3:58PM
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There are a lot of components to getting hot compost.

Size of pile: you need a fair bit of volume; your pile should be at least a cubic yard.

Browns and greens: need to be in the right proportion. The rule of thumb is 1/4 greens to 3/4 browns.

Size of components: the smaller your ingredients are, the better, especially for browns. I run all my garden and yard waste, including chicken bedding (wood shavings full of chicken poop), and used coffee filters through a chipper-shredder and it helps a LOT. Using lots of used coffee grounds really helped heat up my pile, too, due to the fine texture being so easy for the bacteria to eat.

Moisture and aeration: if a pile is too wet, it won't heat up. If it's too dry, it won't heat up. And it has to be turned to keep the oxygen supply going. I find that if I want a hot pile, I have to fuss with it a bit to keep the moisture and oxygen level just right. If your components are shredded finely, it's much easier to turn. I have a bin and use a Compost Crank.

Your pile doesn't HAVE to get hot in order to make compost. But cold composting takes much longer, as in years rather than months.


    Bookmark   May 19, 2011 at 1:03AM
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Thank you Maureen. I also read that cold compost doesn't have as much microbes/nutrient as a hot compost, compost.

Appreciate all your help.

Thanks you!

    Bookmark   May 19, 2011 at 9:35PM
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The five rules of rot
1 You need the mass of 3'x3'x3' to 5'x5'x5', particle size 1-3 inches to create tighter and more insulating compost pile
2 60-65% moisture content (wrung up sponge)
3 25:1 to 30:1 C/N ratio
4 Oxygen
5 Time (the more you participate, the quicker)
What makes compost hot: the right mixture of carbon and nitrogen, the size of the mass for insulation and to support the organism during the composting process, moisture content and enough nitrogen to sustain the life of the composting process- coffee ground, coffee ground and more coffee ground. Aerobic composting burns lots of nitrogen. The pile needs to be compacted without being water logged. Add sweet gumballs within each layer of material. Hope that helps.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2011 at 1:58AM
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Thank you Sea (and everyone else again).

I know now what to do. I need to add more greens. Most of the green grass clippings unfortunately I treated with pesticide. I have been adding kitchen scraps and lot of coffee grounds lately.

I need to buy proper tools (fork) to turn it (I am using a shovel right now).

sweet gumballs....hmmm....will need to google....not sure what they are.

I have 4 piles going....and very excited.

Thanks All!!

    Bookmark   May 26, 2011 at 9:08AM
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What type of bin are you using? I seldom us compost fork, only when I'm building the pile or harvesting the finished compost. I found regular compost fork to big to use in the bin. There is a three-tine fork that I consider getting but I found my Snow & Neally garden claw works perfectly for me.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2011 at 12:30AM
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do search online for hotbox compost. easy to make and works. need a minimum of 3x3x3 box.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2011 at 12:14PM
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I just have piled it high in my backyard...I have 4 piles. Don't have a bin built yet.

I have been turning it by shovel and it is looking good. The inside is already black and done (I think) composting.

I added more green leaves, some soil, and lots of brown leaves (chopped), in between paper and rotten veggie scraps. Cover it all up with green grass clipping. Water it. Keep turning it once a week.

VERY EXCITING though lot of energy in turning it.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2011 at 3:24PM
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jajm4(z5 w. mass, usa)

Hot compost will kill the worms, though. So if you're doing vermicomposting, you want it to stay "cold."

    Bookmark   June 19, 2011 at 1:08PM
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Thank you jajm!

    Bookmark   June 21, 2011 at 10:45AM
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Karchita(WA Z8)

Hold on just minute, here.

Hot compost doesn't "kill" worms. If you have a pile of yard waste that you want to compost and you assemble it into a pile (a bin is nice, but optional) and moisten it, if you have the right combo you will get a hot compost pile. At this stage, there are no worms in it to be killed. If there are a few that somehow rode in with the leaves and branches and coffee grounds (not too likely), they will find a way out as the temp gradually gets too warm for them. Later, when the pile cools off, earthworms will usually find their way to it and help a bit with the cold stage of the process. They play a minor role or none at all. You can make compost with this method even without the help of earthworms, though most bins do attract them. This is hot composting, and the worms that may or may not be involved are earthworms.

Vermicomposting is something quite different. It means that you have a worm bin, usually a small box and lid of some sort, with red wiggler worms in it, not earthworms. You feed the worms kitchen scraps only, no yard waste. It is true that you do not want a worm bin to get hot as that will cause the worms to die, and since they are in a box, they can't escape very easily. But that is not what trivedi is doing. He wants to do hot composting, not vermicomposting. He doesn't need to worry about killing worms.

About the grass clippings ... find out what chemicals your lawn service is using and if they are safe to compost. Probably what they are using is safe to compost. The process of composting will break down all but the most extremely toxic lawn chemicals. If it isn't safe to compost, then it probably isn't anything you want around your house or pets or kids or vegetable garden, etc. So ask them to use a safer pesticide or none at all. These companies will only change if people make it clear that is what they want.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 2:42AM
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Hi All; The difference between HOT YOU DO the turning and COLD THE WORMS DO the turning composting are two fold. One in hot composting the microbes alone break the materials down with, Two you doing the duties of dampining and turning.

In cold composting you are not concerned with the balance of materials(C to N ratio )as a matter of fact you try to intentionally not try to balance it. The worms and microbes are involved in break down of materials and the worms do the mixing as they consume and excreat it and wiggle through it. You still need to supply water and bio material.

Please note that all species of red earthworms are earthworms because they perfer to live in and close to the food source does not make them not earthworms.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 8:11AM
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jajm4(z5 w. mass, usa)

Hot composting and vermicomposting are different processes, yes. But not everyone understands that, and since this is the vermicomposting forum, and the conversation was discussing hot methods, I wanted to make sure it was clear that pursuing the hot approach would not work for someone who presumably intended to support a typical closed system worm bin. I wouldn't want anyone to accidentally heat up their box and kill the worms they just added to it!

    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 9:40PM
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"Hot composting and vermicomposting are different processes"

Thank you Jajm. I had realised my mistake after posting. Though I must admit, I am learning. I didn't know the various composting methods (cold, hot, vermicompost).

I appreciate all the help.

I am exploring "WORM TOWER" that I accidently found on gardenweb and I am quite excited about it.

Has anyone used this method? Does it work?
If I build a WORM TOWER in hot veggie patch, would the heat from sun kill the worms? These are questions I am exploring.

Thanks for help and support.

Ms T

    Bookmark   June 23, 2011 at 9:21AM
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If the worms do not read the instructions on the worm factory to move up towards the food in the next bin then I find it difficult to believe that the worms will follow instructions to move to the worm tower to eat and then exit the worm tower when nature calls to fertilize the garden.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2011 at 3:46PM
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plumiebear(z9? CA)

Ms T, worm towers do work, but you have to remember to add food and water. The towers should be ok in a hot veggie patch if you embed them deep enough. If you have any field rodents (mice, moles, etc.), you will want to cap both ends with wire mesh.


    Bookmark   June 24, 2011 at 1:35AM
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