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Making Hot Compost

July 10th, 2020

This spring we started experimenting with making hot compost. I saved this article from Deep Green Permaculture years ago with plans to give it a try. Our first batch was 100% litter from the duck/turkey/chicken coop, which means it was manure and various dry garden material I add with lots of manure. We piled it up, turned it, then watered it well because it was super dry, and started turning it regularly (per article instructions). The results were AMAZING! Unfortunately I didn’t get any photos with my real camera, but I did create an Instagram highlight of our efforts since I started documenting the process, head on over and check it out.

We were blown away by the results from our first batch. In 28 days, we had a big slightly steamy pile of brown lovely compost. As a comparison, here’s a photo of the same material (duck room litter) that was composted using the cold compost method. Which means it was piled in the garden last fall and left to compost on its own with no turning. You can see the difference!

We tested the temperature of our compost pile after 15 days or so, it was 150 degrees, definitely hot enough to kill weed seeds and pathogens. I even added weed seeds to the pile to see if they’d be killed. So far nothing is germinating in the compost. Our final amount was probably about 3 yards of compost.

As the first batch was composting away, I started collecting things for our second pile. There were loads of grass clippings, garden weeds, and other organic matter produced in the kitchen and around the farm. We mixed it up, watered it, and left it to sit for the initial five days.

After the first turn it was already steaming and registering 125 degrees. Today we are on turn number 5. This pile is a bit cooler than our other pile, no doubt because it doesn’t contain any manure at all. I did add all of the comfrey from the garden to heat it up a bit (comfrey is a great plant to have to heat up compost piles and add lots of nutrients). It’s been a fun thing to do this summer, we are relishing having tons of compost for the gardens. We will never go back to cold composting! We are lucky to have a tractor to make big piles, but it can be done on a smaller scale. The smallest recommended size is 1 meter squared.

3 Comments to “Making Hot Compost”
  1. MIsti on July 11, 2020 at 9:32 am

    I wish I had the diligence to stay on top of a hot compost situation. We’ve been a little more active with ours this year but in general we forget to turn and water it as frequently as we should!

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  2. David Bentz on July 17, 2020 at 2:49 pm

    Susy, I trench compost. All the grass clippings and garden weeds (not mature with seeds) are buried about a foot deep in the garden bed mostly in the fall. I let the bed Winter uncovered so snow and freezing temperatures can break up the soil. In the Spring I give the bed a tickle and wait for the weeds to sprout. I use a hula hoe to do a once over and then rake with a garden rake. Then a couple weeks later the second wave of weeds sprout and another once over with hoe and rake will take care of the pesky weeds. After the next rain, I give the bed one more hoe and rake and cover it with heavy mulch. When the time comes to plant, the mulch gets moved aside just enough to plant the seeds or transplants. As the plants grow more mulch is added and weeds are usually not a problem except for an occasional tough guy here and there that pulls out easily. Yes, it’s a lot of digging and hoeing but once it’s done, it’s good for the rest of the year.

    Nebraska Dave
    Urban Farmer

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  3. Kathy on July 27, 2020 at 1:51 pm

    I love hot composting! I get so much joy from turning my pile and observing all the living critters & worms that live among it after it cools down. And I love being able to use it a lot sooner than cold composting.

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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