UF Hack: Fast-And-Easy Hot Compost

Speed up the time it takes to turn food scraps into garden fertilizer by adopting this hot-composting techniques.

by Aliza Sollins

While some growers prefer the cold method of composting, where the compost pile is left in a bin for up to a year to slowly break down, this low and slow approach may not be efficient enough when space is at a premium. If you manage your pile right using hot composting methods, you can turn waste into fertilizer in as fast as 18 days!

The magical temperature range for making hot compost is 135 to 150 degrees F. Hot composting speeds up the decomposition process and produces a finer end product. An additional benefit of raising the compost temperature to 150 F for several days is that the high temperature helps to destroy potential disease and weed seeds. So how do you raise the temperature of your compost? Here are some easy tips that will help.

Turn, Turn, Turn

Keeping your compost aerated is a great way to promote the proper bacterial growth that will raise compost temperature. A general rule of thumb is to turn your compost about every other day for two weeks. To make turning quick and easy, using plastic storage bins may be more manageable. Make two of these bins and you can easily transfer your compost back and forth from one bin to the other to turn it.

… Or Don’t Turn?

This short video clip by OneYardRevolution shows you how to heat up compost without turning it. Basically, the method involves drilling large holes in your compost bin and adding lots of nitrogen-rich coffee grounds. A pH meter would probably be helpful here to make sure the final compost is not too acidic from the coffee grounds.

Add More Nitrogen

Adding coffee grounds, food waste, livestock manure or even your personal source of nitrogen-rich liquid are party foods for your compost bacteria. However, if your compost starts to feel to wet, smelly or sticky, add cardboard or another readily available source of carbon to regain the nutrient balance.

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Get A Thermometer

You will need to get a compost thermometer to measure the temperature of your pile. Additional tools, such as a pH meter may be helpful if you are adding lots of coffee grounds or pine shavings to make sure your compost doesn’t get too acidic.

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