Hot Compost at Last!


Jennifer QuinnOne of my earliest improvements at Panther's Hollow was a real compost bin built out of old pallets that were lying on the property. I had it built in a convenient spot between my house and the storage shed.

Soon after, a visitor remarked that I probably shouldn't have my compost so close to the house (about six feet away), in case it would catch fire. I looked at her incredulously. "I wish I had to worry about that!" I said.

Despite my efforts, I had never been able to get a compost pile to heat up noticeably. I know you're supposed to have at least 9 cubic feet, and as an urban gardener my piles rarely approached that size, if at all.

But after moving to my homestead I was able to build larger piles, and still no heat. My friends offered various explanations, such as too little nitrogen, or too small a pile.

But with all the poultry litter and greens I was composting I didn't think nitrogen could be the problem. And the piles would eventually exceed 9 cubic feet, for a time, at least.

Occasionally I would feel a bit of warmth emanating from the pile while turning it. But the next time I turned it, I'd find it had cooled down. Still, the materials weren't breaking down fully, and I would end up putting half-finished compost on my garden beds, which is sometimes worse than not adding anything at all.

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