Making your own compost is a great way to get a free garden soil amendment. Yard and kitchen waste are combined in a pile that decomposes into a rich humus. All the ingredients are at your disposal, so the only question is, should I hot compost or cold compost?
Compost Methods: Differences Between Hot Composting and Cold Composting
You may or may not be aware of the various compost methods like hot vs. cold composting. What do these mean anyway and which is better?
What is Cold Composting?
Cold composting is for those who aren’t in any hurry for the finished product, which can take up to two years. It’s a matter of piling up browns and greens in a 3- to 4-foot (about 1m.) heap and letting nature take its course. Turning the pile once a month will speed things up a bit.
What is Hot Composting?
Hot composting takes more effort, but the reward is finished compost in only six to eight weeks. Start by choosing a site near a water source and close to where the amendment will be used. Build a 3 foot by 3 foot (1 by 1 m.) bin out of wire, wood pallets, concrete blocks, or purchase one. It should have one side open or removable so you can easily reach the bottom of the pile to turn it.
Layer browns to greens in a 2:1 or 3:1 ratio. Browns (carbon source) are dried leaves, twigs, straw, and shredded newspapers or cardboard, while greens (nitrogen) are grass clippings, weeds, vegetable scraps (no meat or dairy), coffee grounds and filters, and tea bags. Throw a handful of dirt onto the pile to supply the microorganisms and bacteria needed for decomposition. Continue layering till the bin is full.
Moisture is important so if it doesn’t rain, you’ll need to water the pile to keep it moist. Too much moisture will deplete the much needed oxygen and you’ll end up with foul smelling compost. When actively working, a handful of compost should feel like a wet sponge.
Turn it twice a week at first, then every week. Use a garden fork or compost fork and scoop from the bottom as well as the sides. Frequent turning allows more oxygen into the pile ensuring aerobic activity and a sweet, earthen smell.
It’s finished when the compost is dark and crumbly. Use it as a soil amendment in the garden or as a mulch on annuals, perennials, trees, and shrubs. Nutrients will gradually be released, providing nourishment to the soil all season.
Now that you know the difference between the two, it’s merely a matter of which method you have time for or how quickly you’d like to see results.