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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.

Quote of the Day: Nigel Slater

October 23rd, 2011

My soil is now what I hope Monty might call “in good heart.” If I have one piece of advice for anyone “growing their own,” it is to get this right before you plant a single seed. Even if it means missing a season while you plant geen manure such as red clover or trefoil.

The soil is like a bank account. We should put in more than we take out.

Nigel Slater from Tender: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch

I was thinking about this quote last week as we were shoveling chicken manure onto the garden beds. I’m lucky enough to have found a local source for manure from organic pastured animals. The farm we purchase our milk from had some they were willing to give me for free. Since I didn’t have time to head out and load it up myself, I offered to pay their boys to load it up for me (their mom sent me this photo of them working).

They were more than happy to do it to earn some extra cash and I’m always willing to hire local kids and pay generous wages since people did that for me when I was young. I really believe this helps build an entrepreneurial mind in kids. The boys loaded up two trailer loads of manure for me.

Of course when we brought the load home, we had to unload it ourselves, which only took about 30 minutes. The first load was spread across a half of the newgarden area that was cleared this spring in the new lot.

The other load was piled below the garden area and layered with straw to compost over the winter. I wasn’t able to spread in on the remainder of the garden because it’s already planted in an overwintering rye. It will compost beautifully over the spring and will be ready to add to the beds when the cover crop is mown down.

Manure is one of those soil amendments that has fallen out of favor for some reason. I think people are scared of disease & contamination. Oddly enough, it’s the best amendment for your garden. I have noticed that when you use manure as a soil conditioner the level of microbial activity seems to skyrocket. Personally, I’d much rather use a natural organic manure than something chemical any day. It doesn’t bother me in the least bit to use in my garden. That being said, I wouldn’t use sewage sludge or manure from CAFO’s on my garden, or any kind of chemical fertilizer!

The best place to find sources of local manure seems to be Craig’s list. If you live in a rural area, pay a visit to a local farmer, you just might be surprised that they have plenty of manure they’re willing to give away.

Do you use manure on your garden? Where do you source it from?

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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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