Cold Compost vs. Hot Compost

There are two main ways to grow your own compost-cold compost and hot compost. Construction of a cold pile of compost needs no thought or preparation. Leaves, grass clippings, garden and yard waste, kitchen scraps — all can be heaped on the pile without thinking about ratios, levels of humidity or heat. A cold compost pile provides the easiest way of eliminating waste for those new to composting. Tossing organic materials from the kitchen and yard which does not require a plastic bag or a garbage can is a place.

Unfortunately there are still some deficits with cold compost piles. Cold compost will take up to one year to break down, and with such a slow rate of decomposition it will probably not give you all the compost you need. If you don’t bother breaking up bigger pieces of materials — such as stems or branches — the method can take even longer. Also, cold compost does not produce the heat required to destroy weed seeds or pests.

Fortunately, a hot compost pile isn’t that much more difficult to create, and for the kitchen gardener, the rapid output rate of accessible compost can be strangely satisfying.

Construction of a hot compost pile demands greater attention and knowledge of the decomposition process. You will need to maintain even ratios of nitrogen (green materials) and carbon (brown materials) to speed up the aerobic activity in your compost pile. Green garden materials have a high content of moisture, and dry brown compost materials.

Gradually layer green and brown materials to create a hot compost pile until the pile is three to four feet deep. Should layer should have an average depth of 6 inches. If the materials are dry, then water the pile as the layers are formed. For an additional burst of microbial activity I still like to put in a shovel or two of finished compost with each sheet.

In drier climates, if it has too much sun a compost pile will dry out. Cover it with a tarp for keeping in the moisture, and add some extra moisture with a hose if needed. In the end, the pile should have the equal moisture of a wet sponge.

You can tell if your pile is heating up by using a pitchfork to give it a short turn. Hot compost piles on the inside will reach up to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, and will steam visibly from the sun. For the compost to work you don’t need to change the pile every few days. Turning exposes nutrients to the environment needlessly, and it is easier to contain those nutrients within the mound.

When making hot compost it is important to maintain even amounts of brown and green materials. The pile will become anaerobic with so many green materials and it will start smelling. The smell may be unbearable when a pile includes just green materials, and because of this smell, compost has gained an unfair image. There would be no stench of a well-balanced compost pile. If the pile contains so many brown compost components the materials will not deteriorate.