Hot composting is ideal for households that have a lot of yard materials, and for people that are willing to actively mix the material. The hot composting process can take anywhere on average from 18 days to 2 months before it is usable compost. The hot composting method also has the added benefit of killing off weed seeds and pathogens that are otherwise present in other composting methods.
Hot composting involves a combination of brown materials, green materials, water, and periodic turning to create compost. If the ratios seem too complicated or confusing, you can work with volumes (size of the material, or the amount of space it takes up) of ingredients to simplify the process. Try to use 1/3 green materials with 2/3 brown materials (for every bucket of green materials, add two buckets of brown materials).
Brown materials give your compost pile the necessary carbon, which provides a source of energy for compost microbes. Brown materials would include materials such as dry leaves, wood chips, and straw.
Green materials give your compost pile the necessary nitrogen, which is an excellent source of protein for compost microbes. Nitrogen is what helps to speed up the decomposition process in your compost pile. Green materials would include items such as grass clippings, plant cuttings, and vegetable scraps.
Carbon to Nitrogen Ratio
It is important to maintain a proper carbon to nitrogen (C:N) ratio within your compost pile. If you do not maintain a good C:N ratio, the microorganisms that are vital to the decomposition process will not be able to thrive in your compost pile. It is recommended that you maintain a 30:1 ratio of C:N by weight.
Constructing Your Hot Compost Pile
Before you begin to construct your compost pile, it is important to remember to incorporate water into the material. Each layer that you add should be misted with water until the material reaches the consistency of a damp sponge. If you squeeze the material after water is applied, the material should be close to dripping. If you wish to water the compost pile after it is constructed, wet the pile until water starts to come out of the bottom.
To start your compost pile, the base layer should consist of brown materials. This will help incorporate air into the bottom of your pile, and speed up the decomposition process. As you construct the pile, the easiest way is to alternate between layers of brown, green, and brown materials approximately 2 to 3 inches thick (brown, green, brown, green, etc.), while also incorporating a small amount of water into each layer.
When your pile is constructed, it should be at least 3 feet by 3 feet by 3 feet, and no more than 5 feet by 5 feet by 5 feet in size. If your pile is too small, it will not be able to reach the necessary temperatures to effectively breakdown, and kill off parasites and weed seeds; and if your pile is too big, it will take a lot longer to breakdown, and it will be hard manage.
Turning Your Pile
When your pile is constructed it should sit for about a week, or until the internal temperature reaches between 120 to 170 degrees Fahrenheit (Composting thermometers can be found online). At this point, the pile needs to be turned. This can be done with an aeration tool, or by using a pitch fork to stack the outside contents from around the pile next to the original pile, and then placing the inside contents on top of the new pile. After the initial turn, this process should be done every couple of days to continue the decomposition process.
When the materials within your pile have turned dark brown, and the contents are no longer recognizable, your compost pile should be ready for use.