Hot composting is an optimized method in which the life and death cycles within the compost pile succeed each other in a much shorter period of time, at an elevated temperature. It requires little equipment, but time and effort are needed for the organic matter to become available for the garden.
In today’s ultramodern, ultrafast world, we are confronted with more and more problems in our increasingly artificial environments. More and more raw materials are being put into innovative combinations; sometimes, that is to our great advantage, yet the pace at which this is taking place creates a number of issues for which we have no solution, as it stands today.
Reducing waste and recycling materials are made possible through this method, which can be scaled without implying great expenditure of fossil energy.
It includes a wide array of materials
As far as organic materials are concerned, Hot Composting stacks a great deal of “recycling” functions, as it can incorporate:
- Carbon materials, which are generally slow to decompose
- Nitrogen materials, which are often too quick to decompose
- Animal manures for microbiota inoculation
Each ingredient adds a particular function to the mix, and none of them individually wouldn’t be able to perform at such a high standard as in the Hot Composting approach. And a great advantage is that this is a method which can be done at the garden scale.
The minimum size is one cubic meter of the (combined) three main categories listed above, as this actually provides the necessary nutrition to feed one person, for a year, in terms of annual plants. That figure may depend on plenty of other factors (gardening experience, soil, climate etc.), but it is a good measuring stick in assessing how much is needed for the garden.
Fastest scalable method
A second important aspect is that not only is it doable, at a reasonable pace, by one gardener, it is also possible to increase the size of the operation, according to needs. While increasing the height would lead to the pile becoming anaerobic, it can be multiplied in length.
Depending on local sanitation and HOA agreements, it is probably the best possible solution for peri-urban sites, where some freedom is allowed in terms of solutions.
If there’s a need to do more compost, but labor is not so readily available – then creative solutions can be found where domestic animals such as chickens provide some of the work.
The versatile and omnivorous nature of these fowl (you can read more about them here: https://vinepermaculture.com/backyard-chickens/) make them the perfect elements of this life-enriching process.
Within 4 weeks, these domestic birds can help take apart, eat and scratch all the materials in the compost pile, which you still have to re-assemble a number of 4 times. The results, however, are comparable to those of the system where humans provide all the work themselves, in a similar time frame.
For market gardeners and farmers, as their needs in terms of volume are superior to gardeners, scaling and especially including animals (especially small animals) can greatly aid the process. Organic materials, instead of directly being thrown in a pile, can pass through the gut of fowl and rabbits, guinea pig etc. can increase the quality of the final product.
For those wondering about why to use this method, please consider some compelling arguments for adopting this practice:
- it sterilizes seeds, and especially “weed” seeds. Reaching temperatures above 60-65 degrees Celsius, the Hot Composting methods effectively sterilizes the competing seeds of our typical pioneer garden plants which we’ve domesticated over time; thus, labor is also reduced
- it neutralizes pathogens, be it from the garden, or from other animals. Reaching temperatures of above 60 degrees Celsius is a must, but the benefits are numerous. The time spent in preparing the compost, and feeding the soil, decreases the chances of disease and pests (which are mainly attracted to weak plants)
- it stabilizes chemicals substances, locking them in Carbon molecules ; the criteria for this happening is again temperatures and the presence of shredded carbon, which allows the bacteria that can digest the said materials
For clarity, we are working under the assumption that we’re composting organic material that may have been treated with chemicals, and not something else.
The resulting materials will feature inert molecules, relative to the initial chemicals (heavy metals, pollutants).
It is usable right away in garden
In certain climates, Hot Composting can be up to nine times faster than the “classical” compost cycle, where materials are simply piled in a corner of the garden and forgotten till the next growing season.
Of course, Hot Composting is a more intensive method, and it requires thoughtful action, and a balancing of materials type. However, all of the ingredients fall into the “waste” category, and are freely available.
The resulting material should meet the criteria cited above, and once it has completed the cycle, and it presents all the characteristics (color, moisture retention, smell, gradient etc.), it can be used right away in the garden, or even on perennial plants.
As mentioned above, for any number of reasons, Hot Composting presents quite a few extra functions:
- feeding chickens (if they’re involved in the process)
- heating greenhouses (of course, this is applicable in the colder seasons)
- heating animals – where temperatures go below freezing, running compost piles accessible to chickens also provides this function; as a result of this, their energy requirements actually go down, as they have to burn less fat to keep warm.
- keeping soil biota alive by making it available for longer (if your climate features a rest period)
Hot Composting is a great composting method, if the process is allowed from a “legal” point of view (city regulations, HOA’s etc). In certain situations, it might not be suitable : maybe it doesn’t fit the lifestyle of the people, or animal manures are not available, or maybe there isn’t enough space. However, for most gardeners, in most situations, it does make sense to do it, as the benefits far outweigh the effort.