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How Hot Composting Works - And How It Can Work For You

By Samantha Miller

What’s the Difference Between Hot & Cold Composting?


Both hot and cold compost piles should involve a combination of “greens” or nitrogen-rich materials (veggie and fruit scraps, egg shells, etc) and “browns” or carbon-rich materials (paper, cardboard, straw, etc).


However, you’ll find more hot compost piles than cold ones making use of these carbon materials, as these dry ingredients promote oxidation, giving energy to the microscopic bacteria involved in the decomposition process.

 

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A cold compost is a pile of organic material that decomposes anaerobically, or “without air.” This means that the pile is not turned and allowed to breathe. Cold compost takes much longer to decompose (between 6 and 18 months). Also, cold compost does not reach an internal temperature sufficient to kill any plant diseases, pathogens, or weed seeds.



Hot compost reaches an internal temperature between 49 - 77℃ (120 - 170℉) due to the consistent aeration of the materials. This process involves more work on your part, but it also breaks down much faster (between 4 weeks - 3 months, depending on the size of the pile).


Hot compost also breaks down to a much finer material, and kills any pathogens and weed seeds, making it a more valuable fertilizer for serious gardeners.


Essentially, cold compost is good for the person who wants to divert food waste but isn’t too bothered about its use in the garden, whereas hot compost is for the more involved gardener with an interest in keeping weeds down, and soil nutrients up.


Hot Compost

Cold Compost

Temperature:

49 - 77℃ (120 - 170℉)

Remains cold inside (though above zero)

Time Frame:

4 weeks - 6 months

3 months - 18 months

Requirements:

  • Regular turning
  • Carbon materials (20:1) Carbon:Nitrogen
  • Chopping up food wastes into smaller chunks
  • Some watering
  • Designating a pile
  • Dropping (non-meat) kitchen scraps

Benefits:

  • Kills weed seeds
  • Kills plant diseases
  • Finer material when broken down
  • Easy
  • Very little forethought or preparation involved
  • Simple concept

Methods for Hot Composting:


While cold composting is little more than just tossing food waste into a pile, hot composting has many tried and true methods to speed things up, break things down, and get you garden-ready in 2019.

 

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  1. Three-Bin Compost System
  2. Vermicompost
  3. Food Recycling
  4. Black Soldier Fly Compost System
  5. Chickens

Why Food Recycling Is Similar To - and Sometimes Better Than - Hot Composting


Food recycling is the modern take on traditional compost piles. Because it can turn food waste into a dry, sterile yet nutrient-rich fertilizer in hours, it saves many folks the hassle of figuring out how to make their hot compost pile or hot compost bin a success the old-fashioned way.


Food recyclers are also excellent options for those who don’t have access to yard space or whose municipality/house association does not allow backyard composting, or those who simply don’t have the time, energy or physical mobility required to handle a big pile of decomposing food waste.


Food Recyclers are:


-Fast

-Energy efficient

-Easy to use

-Simple to understand

-Small-space friendly

-Portable

-Versatile (can take meat, bones and dairy)

-All-season composters (winter composting too!)


Now, how are food recyclers LIKE hot compost bins?


Food recyclers, or, as they’re commonly known, “electric composters”, use heat, aeration and turning to break down food waste - just like a hot compost pile or bin.


-Both reach an internal temperature necessary to kill weed seeds, plant diseases and food pathogens.


-Both break down food waste into smaller particles


-Both are odorless


-Both create a fertilizer that is scientifically proven to do wonders to your soil and garden


How are they different?


The difference between the two is that, in an “electric composter”, the food waste is turned automatically by an internal mechanism, requiring no effort on your part. It is also heated while the turning and aeration occurs, speeding up the process by using the cycle as an all-at-once digestion bin.


While electric food recyclers do not necessarily create compost right off the bat, they do create a highly valuable powdered organic fertilizer that feeds and enriches the nutrient content of your garden. This fertilizer has been proven to increase sprout height, weight and leaf growth.

However, once the “electric composter’s” organic fertilizer, has been mixed in with your garden soil, the existing microbes and bacteria in your garden will combine with and be supplemented by the processed food waste from your kitchen.


Over time, the fertilizer will break down further and feed your plant roots, while adding crucial bio-matter and nutrients (especially nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) to your garden soil.


To Summarize


Any type of composting is an AMAZING THING to do for your soil, your home and our planet.


But, if you love gardening and you want to give your soil a big nutrient boost quickly and without the risk of plant diseases, food pathogens or weed seeds, then hot composting is the method for you.


Whether you decide to go the route of an electric food recycler, or the old-fashioned elbow-grease method, is completely up to you. You just need to make a list of what you’re looking for in a compost pile, and then get started!



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