The love affair, between you and the compost, always start with being love struck by the new novelty of the method. The relationship very quickly becomes one sided, and you end up shouting “you stink.” Then starts the argument of what is that best way to make the compost- either fast and hot, or slowly, patiently, and with less effort?
Well, why don’t you and I, have this kind of penetrating man-to-man conversation. If you want to compost in a hurry; a hot, active, or fast compost pile that is working extra hard on decomposing the raw material, is the one that suits your style. The word ‘compost’ conjures up a vague picture of leaves, sticks, and soil, sitting there, doing something.
Let’s find out. . .
Where to get hot
You can compost in a compost bin-hot, sleek and sexy, or a compost tumbler (rolling around in the hay!), compost piles, compost pits, or just about anywhere it’ll fit. Natural processes take over with or without your interference. I’m here to encourage you to get off your butt and start taking an active role in making your compost smokin’ hot.
How to get hot
The finer point of the process is the addition of the ‘greens’ (nitrogen rich) and ‘browns’ (carbon rich) materials in an equal amount. You can start with a thin layer of carbon-rich leaves such as corn stalks so that the air can reach the bum of the pile.
Like foreplay, some active humus and some good soil are a must-add, pretty much like source of heat generating bacteria, which kick-starts the decomposition. Then, slowly and gently, insert the green ingredient like the kitchen scraps in alternation with brown materials.
Hot + wet = 😉
The heat generating bacteria needs some moisture and warmth and some air to perform correctly, like, well, you know. So, you should keep your pile moist, but not soaking wet, and turn it to aerate. Prodding the huge pile will move the cooler materials on the edges to the center, where they can heat up.
Remember: hot, wet, and moving.
Keep it moving
Do not forget to “poke-turn-poke-and-turn” with a stiff rod…
Need a thermometer? Nope. You’ll know when it’s hot enough, steamy and humid as a thong on South Beach.
The smell at the beginning may be unpleasant, but as decomposition continues, you’ll find the odor to become stale and musty. Call it an acquired taste if you must. Presences of a faint sulfurous smell show a lot of anaerobic activity, and so it may need aeration.
When things cool off
For the experienced composter, it never takes long for the pile to reach the required temperature-hot enough to kill most of the weed seed and organisms. With time the temperature reduces, just as expected — after every high, there is a low. Time to cuddle and whisper. When the pile no longer gets hot at the center, let it cure for a few days, and your clean and new compost ready for use.
Sure, it’s a little melancholy to move on after you’ve spent so much time together. Life, however, is motion – action – and you must move on. Other compost piles require your attention. Believe me, regardless of where your path leads, memories of your first hot compost pile will last long after the warmth fades.
Now you know – ready to get busy?