Hot Composting – How to Turn Waste to Compost Fast!

You may have heard the term “hot composting”. Not sure what hot composting means? Perhaps you’d like to know if it is suitable for your garden or capabilities? This guide can help. We explore what the process involves, how it works, and how it differs from using more traditional garden compost bins.

compost after the hot composting process

What is Hot Composting?

Hot composting involves being a lot more hands on when it comes to your garden waste. However its a very satisfying composting technique. The results produced by following the hot compost method will leave you with a much better quality of compost.

It is a skill that needs to be learned by following instructions carefully, starting with the very basics. Doing this for the first time requires both time and patience. It can be tempting to cut corners but you may risk the end result. The heat is created by using high nitrogen waste, together with materials such as twigs or straw.

The Hot Composting Process – An Overview

With hot composting, the process itself requires you to create a pile rather than layers. This pile is mixed regularly. The heap you begin with should be a good size and this can be added to each time it is forked over. When you have built your compost mound, it ideally needs to be left alone for a minimum of 4 days. This is important because it allows time for the bacteria to increase and become more established.

Once your compost heap has been left alone for these crucial first days, you can then break the pile down and you will be able to see signs of heat. After the pile has had a good turnover, you can then build it back into a heap.

Turning Your Compost Heap

From this point onwards, you should try and keep your pile protected from the wet weather and turn it over every 2-3 days for the next fortnight. During this time you will see steam coming from your pile until it reaches the required temperature. After this point, it is important to turn the pile over every few days for another week – at which point you will reach the desired rate of decomposition.

You should then leave it covered or separate it into suitable containers and leave it alone for a further month. This greatly improves the overall quality of the compost and you will see how the texture and smell change over four weeks. You can then use it as you wish and enjoy the pleasing results of the rich and crumbly compost.

Hot Composting Techniques – Step by Step Guide

Hot compost techniques can seem hard to follow. Here are two lists showing what materials you’ll need, and what you should do with them to make compost!

Composting Materials

Below, we first take a look at the materials you need to build your hot compost pile.

  • Materials needed should be a 2 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen ratio.
  • Nitrogen-rich materials include grass, fruit and veg peelings, weeds, ground coffee or tea bags.
  • Carbon-rich materials include shredded newspaper, twigs, hay, straw, and dry leaves.
  • You will need a suitable space to grow your hot compost pile or you can purchase a bin for the job.
  • You will need a shovel for making the pile.
  • A hoe or fork will be needed for turning the pile regularly.
  • Water will be needed in the beginning to moisten the materials.
  • You may want a thermometer to keep an eye on the temperature.
  • A tarp is a good idea to keep it protected from any rainy periods.
  • You could also make the process simpler by purchasing a compost bin that keeps the waste at a steady temperature.

How to Build Your Hot Compost Heap

Now let’s look at the steps you need to take to get the best results from your hot composting project.

  1. With hot composting, you ideally need to have collected all the ingredients beforehand so that the process can begin.
  2. This means having spent some time collecting enough nitrogen and carbon-rich materials for the process to be successful.
  3. These materials should be chopped up small so that they will be broken down faster, producing speedier results.
  4. You will need to look for a suitable space in the garden that is at least 120cm x 120cm. Alternatively, have the bin ready if that is your preferred option.
  5. Add all the materials together to make your pile and then add enough water for the mound to be moist but not wet.
  6. The bigger the heap the better the results so bear this in mind when collecting your materials.
  7. Some gardeners pop a metal stake into the middle of the compost pile which then acts as a heat gauge. You can, however, use your hands instead.
  8. Once you have built your hot compost pile you need to leave it alone for the first 4 days – this means no turning it over.
  9. After 4 days, you can turn it over and you may see signs of heat. Once you’ve turned it over you can then recreate the pile.
  10. At this point, you may wish to consider protecting the pile with a tarp or similar in case the weather turns wet.
  11. You should then aim to turn your compost pile over every few days for the next 2 weeks at least.
  12. If you cannot comfortably hold the soil in your hands then it will be at the desired temperature. Alternatively, you can check with a thermometer in which case it should be between 130°F and 140°F.
  13. It is normal for the pile to cool down after this time and the pile should continue to be turned over.
  14. After 3-4 weeks you will have lovely crumbly compost and if you leave this alone for another month, the results will be even more pleasing.

About Hot Compost Bins

Hot composting is a great way of life providing you have the time and means to dedicate to the process. However, modern-day life is often busy and therefore we look for simpler ways to do the same job. This is where hot compost bins come in very useful because they allow you to get the same results but with less work needed by you. Of course, you will need to buy a bin which is more expensive than simply building a pile but it will cover its costs over the years.

How Hot Compost Bins Help

Hot compost bins regulate the temperature needed to achieve the results and they keep the oxygen flowing through. Gardeners who keep pets often use a bin as it is an ideal way of disposing of dog and cat poo and also chicken waste.

Hot compost bins should be placed on a level surface in the garden in either the sun or the shade. It is best located in a convenient place for you to regularly access from your house. After a month you will achieve mulching compost and if you leave it for longer then you will achieve an even better quality of compost.

What is the Difference Between Hot Composting and Cold Composting?

One of the main differences between hot composting and cold composting is the timeframe the process takes for each. You get faster results with hot composting but this involves more of your time so it doesn’t suit everyone. Cold composting can be left to do its own thing, needing little to no attention from you. Hot composting produces results that are superior and in a much quicker period.

Hot composting requires a lot more patience, skill, and time than leaving a cold compost to do its own thing. It needs your attention every few days so it can be aerated and temperature checked regularly. It requires a suitable garden space to build it in and a cover for when the weather is wet. Hot composting also requires careful thought as to what is added so that it is 2 parts carbon and 1 part nitrogen.

Hot Composting FAQs

We have researched some of the most commonly asked questions about hot composting and answered them for you.

Can worms live in hot compost?

Worms cannot live in hot compost as the high temperatures will kill them and any eggs they have produced. You may get the odd one that climbs inside but you should not knowingly add worms as they can’t survive in the hot temperatures.

Are compost tumblers hot or cold composting?

Compost tumblers are used in the hot composting process so that the turning process is easier to do. There are different types of compost tumblers so it is important to find what is going to work best for you. If you need one due to back problems, for example, then you will not want one that you have to push around the garden.

Can I hot compost dog poop?

You can hot compost dog poop which is a big plus for dog owners. Hot compost is also ideal for cat and chicken waste and reduces the waste being thrown into the general household waste. You may want to ensure that your bin or heap is far enough from the house to stop unwanted smells from coming inside.

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