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How to Make a Hot Compost Pile

This month is the perfect time to get all of those spring and summer fruits and veggies in the ground – tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, squashes, and melons. But it’s also the time to get your backyard composting system started as well. In addition to creating nutrient rich compost to add to your growing plants, starting a compost pile will also keep fruit and vegetable scraps out of the landfill.

Compost piles require 4 components: carbon, nitrogen, water, and oxygen. What we consider to be carbon, we also call browns. Browns include things such as woody plant parts, dry leaves, stalks, or even cardboard. Materials that are high in nitrogen are called greens. These include your fruit and vegetable scraps, eggshells, and coffee grounds. Usually, we try to aim for a 30:1 ratio of browns and greens. Water is important to keep the pile moist, but just as wet as a wrung-out sponge. Oxygen is needed for the microorganisms in the compost pile to respire and breathe and to turn all of the browns and greens into compost.

Hot composting is just one way to create compost quickly and with minimal effort. In a space that is 3’ wide, 3’ in depth, and 3’ in height, begin to create layers of alternating browns and greens. Start with a large layer of browns and wet thoroughly with a hose. Add a smaller layer of greens, maintaining that 30:1 ratio of browns and greens, and add more water. Continue to create layers of browns and green until you reach the top of the 3’ area. Make sure the pile is that consistency of a wrung-out sponge.

Turn the pile once every couple of days or at least once a week to keep the pile aerated. The pile will begin to heat up as the microorganisms convert the materials into compost, and will reach a temperature of between 140-160 degrees when complete. Compost that is too hot will kill the essential microbes used to make compost, but compost that is too cold will decompose quickly. Hot compost can theoretically create compost from the original materials in as little as three months.

To learn about more ways to create compost, practice making compost, and to learn many other valuable gardening skills, join us for one of our classes covering a variety of topics, held throughout the year. Explore our class offerings here.