Growing great vegies all comes down to the health of your soil, and you can’t have healthy soil without compost. Here we show you how to make compost quickly… aka hot compost!
There are many different ways to create compost. There’s hot compost, cold compost, compost tumblers, compost bins, a compost pile, bokashi systems, even worm farms.
Today we’re going to focus on how to create hot compost.
Setting up your hot compost space
If you’re working with limited space like a small courtyard or backyard, then hot compost won’t be quite right for you.
However, if you have a large backyard or property, you’re in business! You will have space for a bay system which, depending on how you use it, allows you to create larger amounts of compost… quickly!
It’s better to have these open-style systems a bit further away from the house as they are harder to keep rodent proof than the closed-style systems.
What ingredients should you add to your compost?
All compost is made up of nitrogen, carbon, air and water. Sometimes referred to as the ‘green’ component, nitrogen consists of anything juicy and living – food scraps, grass clippings, plants that are still fresh and green looking, farm animal manure (not dogs or cats), coffee grounds, etc.
Carbon, or the ‘brown’ component, is made up of things that are generally dried, such as leaf litter, shredded paper and cardboard, straw and even sawdust.
Depending on the amount of compost you want to make, there’s plenty of ingredients available in the community.
Neighbourhoods are great harvesting grounds and at the same time you are using items that would otherwise be waste products.
You could collect dried and fallen leaves from a local park or offer to clean up leaves for your neighbours. Find a source of shredded paper, although make sure it’s not glossy and, better still, has been printed with vegetable inks (like a copy of Pip!). You might be able to find bags of coarse sawdust from a wood worker, just make sure the wood hasn’t been treated with chemicals.
Ask your local green grocer for food waste – you could potentially get boxes of it. If you live by the coast, and depending on your local regulations, foraged seaweed makes an excellent nitrogen addition, or if there’s livestock near you, see if you can pick up some bags of manure. If you have chooks, both their bedding and manure can be turned into nutrient-rich compost, and you could even try your local fishmonger, as fish frames are very high in nitrogen.
Meat products will have a higher chance of attracting vermin, so fish scraps are best used in a hot compost where it breaks down faster and the high heat and moisture levels will help deter rats and mice.
How to make hot compost
Hot composting is the Lamborghini of composting, if done correctly, it is fast, it creates top-quality compost and large amounts of it. It does require a bit more space and more materials at the start, and it needs a bit of monitoring and maintenance to get the best outcome.
Hot compost is a pile that’s created all at once which, provided you have the right ratio of nitrogen and carbon, will reach temperatures of around 50-60oC within a few days. The heat will ensure your compost breaks down efficiently as well as killing weed seeds and pathogens.
Hot compost requires a bit of preparation as you need all your materials gathered together at the same time to build the pile. And to work efficiently, a hot compost needs to be at least one cubic metre in size.
To build the pile, alternate layers of carbon and nitrogen and water it all really well as you go. If turned weekly, a hot compost pile can be ready in a matter of weeks, although it will still break down if left unturned as long it stays nice and moist, it will just take a little bit longer.
Want to know more about hot compost?
In Issue #27 of Pip Magazine, we teach you everything you need to know about composting, including:
- How to get your ratios right between carbon and nitrogen.
- The pros and cons of compost bins, compost tumblers and worm farms.
- And tips on maintaining your compost system.
You can access this article online here as part of our digital subscription offering, or subscribe to the print version of Pip Magazine here.
And don’t forget we have loads of compost-related content online, including these articles and videos:
- Composting Food Waste: A Beginner’s Guide
- How To Compost Food Scraps: Video Series
- Home Composting: All Your Questions Answered
- Composting Seeds, Pips, Stones… & Other Tricky Things!
- How To Make Quick Compost
- Worm Composting: A Beginner’s Guide
- Ways With Waste: Travel Composting
- How To Build A Compost Shower
- Waterless Composting Toilets: A Practical Guide
- How To Make Compost Tea (Homemade Liquid Fertiliser): Video Series