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How do I make my pile hot?

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How do I make my pile hot?

Post  bvarbel on 1/18/2013, 8:27 pm

I've been composting for a couple months. Its been in the 50's or 60's. I stick my hand in my pile and its cold. It does smell earthy, and I do turn it weekly.

Added to my pile, which is a thick mesh wall shaped like a large trash can with a lid , are many leaves and kitchen scraps (egg shells, coffee grounds, peels, and discarded vegetables cut into small cubes).

Should I worry about this. It looks and smells nice. No heat though. Also the pile is not that high--maybe to the middle of my calf.

Any ideas?
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Re: How do I make my pile hot?

Post  yolos on 1/18/2013, 8:46 pm

A compost pile does not have to be hot, but there are many advantages to a hot pile: faster decomposing, killing bad bacteria/fungus, killing weed seeds, etc.

But if you want to get it hot there are a few principles.

Moisture - most people say it should feel like a wet well wrung out sponge. But I use a more specific standard. When I squeeze the compost, 1 drop of water is good, 3 drops of water is too wet. Also, do not use chlorinated water as this will kill off the good fungi/bacteria.
Size - the common thoughts on this are a minimum size of 3' x 3'.
Aireation - turning the pile is good. You are doing this once a week so you should be okay with that.
Nitrogen/Cabon Ratio - I have found that after my pile heats up and then cools off, I have to add more nitrogen to get the pile to heat back up if I want it to reheat. To get it to reheat, I try to use things that are free such as coffee gounds, kitchen waste, vegetative waste. These should all break down quickly and will not extend the time to break down the rest of the pile. I found that a pile of leaves takes a lot of greens continually added over a period of time.
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Re: How do I make my pile hot?

Post  bvarbel on 1/18/2013, 8:56 pm

Thank you. I'm waiting on spring for ample grass clippings. I should probably add some water to it, though, its not dry per se. I probably need to double or triple the bulk in the pile so that its 3' or so. I'm working on it, but only 2 of us live here in a zero scaped yard. Thanks again for the tips. I'll certainly try them out.
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Re: How do I make my pile hot?

Post  meatburner on 1/18/2013, 11:50 pm

^^^^ what yolos said is good info. Your compost pile is waaaay too small if you want it to heat up. Normally, a 3 x 3 x 3 is an absolute minimum and larger will work even better to get a pile heating up. Any size will eventually compost over time but a larger compost pile or bin will really heat up and break down much faster. Use the search function as there are a lot of threads on how to compost. Good info. Good luck and let us know what you decide to do and how it works for you.
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Re: How do I make my pile hot?

Post  Lindacol on 1/19/2013, 12:17 am

@bvarbel wrote:I've been composting for a couple months. Its been in the 50's or 60's. I stick my hand in my pile and its cold. It does smell earthy, and I do turn it weekly.

Added to my pile, which is a thick mesh wall shaped like a large trash can with a lid , are many leaves and kitchen scraps (egg shells, coffee grounds, peels, and discarded vegetables cut into small cubes).

Should I worry about this. It looks and smells nice. No heat though. Also the pile is not that high--maybe to the middle of my calf.

Any ideas?

Does it look broken down, like dark, rich earth? That is pretty much what finished compost should look like.
Like others have mentioned it the pile needs to be larger. Also in this area it needs to be watered regularly at least weekly unless it rains. Layering in some coffee grounds, alfalfa pellets, or even s little cheap dry dog food will help it heat up. Urine is a good activator also.

In my piles, I just last week turned both. The nearly finished one that had been cool for a while is back up to 110*. The working pile which was layered with the pile I had been piling stuff in(that had heated then cooled), fresh horse manure, coffee grounds and some old freezer veggies. I watered it well as I rebuilt it and twice already since then(by pushing the hose down in the pile to aerate and water it well). It has now been up over 150* for a few days. Both these piles are about 3' x 4' by about 3' high.
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Re: How do I make my pile hot?

Post  floyd1440 on 1/19/2013, 7:08 am

It is tough turning piles in my neck of the woods as it has rarely been over 40 degrees up here however last Sunday it was almost 60 and I did turn one pile over. This is the first time composting starting in the fall.

The constant freezing and thawing has it's advantages in my opinion as it seemed to break down the shreaded leaves into very small pieces. The pile it not warm but when spring hits I will add more greens to heat thinks up.

letting mother nature due some of the work is fine with me............
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Re: How do I make my pile hot?

Post  camprn on 1/19/2013, 7:42 am

@floyd1440 wrote:It is tough turning piles in my neck of the woods as it has rarely been over 40 degrees up here however last Sunday it was almost 60 and I did turn one pile over. This is the first time composting starting in the fall.

The constant freezing and thawing has it's advantages in my opinion as it seemed to break down the shreaded leaves into very small pieces. The pile it not warm but when spring hits I will add more greens to heat thinks up.

letting mother nature due some of the work is fine with me............
This is precisely what I do. I have a reserve pile of grass clippings from last summer to use when I do a first spring turning. If I think it needs a bit more of a charge I will add a light sprinkle of dried blood every 3"-4" when turning the pile.

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Re: How do I make my pile hot?

Post  TN_GARDENER on 1/19/2013, 9:12 am

I don't think I'd worry about it too much.

There are a few things you can buy to get it hot. Main thing I'm thinking about is rabbit feed.

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Re: How do I make my pile hot?

Post  floyd1440 on 1/20/2013, 5:04 pm

@TN_GARDENER wrote:I don't think I'd worry about it too much.

There are a few things you can buy to get it hot. Main thing I'm thinking about is rabbit feed.

Next year I will stockpile more greens for sure but rabbit food it good stuff for sure but it seems better to use it when it gets a little warmer..in the single digits this week.

Good time to work on my garden plan
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Re: How do I make my pile hot?

Post  GWN on 1/21/2013, 7:42 pm

It just amazes me how much stuff I can forget in such a short time. I am totally committed to getting my compost pile hot this winter, more for lack of anything else right now...
And I have tried everything and the thermometer does not budge, I know I am short on nitrogen.
I have been racking my brain trying to think of where I can get more nitrogen, and then I read this thread and remembered blood meal. PRESTO
thanks
Hopefully it will do something to my pile
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Re: How do I make my pile hot?

Post  plantoid on 1/21/2013, 7:56 pm

GWN
Do you think this would help in a cold uncomposted heap ?
Pour a kettle of boiling water in a 18 inch deep hole in the pile , turn some cold material into the now hot hole and when it is hand hot add the fish / blood / bone meal & re cover the heap .
I feel it should keep enough heat for an hour or so to kick start things & start making its own heat . Cover the heap with a tarp to keep any heat and moisture in .
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Re: How do I make my pile hot?

Post  GWN on 1/21/2013, 8:26 pm

GWN
Do you think this would help in a cold uncomposted heap ?
Pour a kettle of boiling water in a 18 inch deep hole in the pile , turn some cold material into the now hot hole and when it is hand hot add the fish / blood / bone meal & re cover the heap .
I feel it should keep enough heat for an hour or so to kick start things & start making its own heat . Cover the heap with a tarp to keep any heat and moisture in .

So plantoid, do you think it needs to get to a certain temp to get things going first?? I had been thinking of perhaps putting a tarp over the pile, but your idea sounds better, boiling water AND a tarp; I think I will try that my next day off. I will let you know how it goes
I have been meaning to ask you about your celery plants but I could not remember where I saw you post about that. I am curious to know more about how that worked for you, and how often you had celery to eat.
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Re: How do I make my pile hot?

Post  plantoid on 1/22/2013, 8:48 am

My thoughts are moist warmth will wake up bacteria who will feed on the dried blood .
Keep it cosy & snug with a " rug " and let them enjoy their feast /party , the heat being generated by their actions & gas production/conversions should spread with in the insulated heap so long as there is enough un composted material there for them to break down .
IE The heap was only stuck due to not being aireated so it cooled and not was not a well finished composting heap.
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Re: How do I make my pile hot?

Post  bwaynef on 1/22/2013, 9:08 am

I'd warn against pouring boiling water on it. Seems likely that it would kill all the beneficials.
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Re: How do I make my pile hot?

Post  camprn on 1/22/2013, 9:34 am

@bwaynef wrote:I'd warn against pouring boiling water on it. Seems likely that it would kill all the beneficials.
+1

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Re: How do I make my pile hot?

Post  meatburner on 1/22/2013, 12:46 pm

@bwaynef wrote:I'd warn against pouring boiling water on it. Seems likely that it would kill all the beneficials.

+2
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Re: How do I make my pile hot?

Post  cindre2000 on 1/22/2013, 12:58 pm

I am lucky I have a steady supply of bird droppings to heat up my pile. I would suggest adding urine if you don't have enough nitrogen.
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Re: How do I make my pile hot?

Post  GWN on 1/23/2013, 7:58 pm

Well I have added plenty of urine,SOME blood meal, lots of greens I put into the blender, and today I took a large pop bottle and filled it with very hot water, and placed it down a hole in the top, then poured a pot of boiling water down the centre (my pile is way too large and frozen for that to kill that many of the beneficials, it would likely be cold water by the time it got through the first inch or so.)
I had already covered it with thick plastic and a fleece blanket, SO we will see.
OH and right after I did this (2 hours ago) it started snowing again and already there is a couple of inches of snow on top so it will all be VERY well insulated.
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Re: How do I make my pile hot?

Post  Boz on 1/24/2013, 4:04 pm

Gwn
I am in zone 5a same as you. My piles usually freeze for several months during the winter. I don't worry about it. When spring comes the piles go back to work and heat up. Then I resume turning them.
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Re: How do I make my pile hot?

Post  camprn on 1/24/2013, 5:30 pm

@Boz wrote:Gwn
I am in zone 5a same as you. My piles usually freeze for several months during the winter. I don't worry about it. When spring comes the piles go back to work and heat up. Then I resume turning them.
+1

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Re: How do I make my pile hot?

Post  GWN on 1/24/2013, 9:58 pm

Gwn
I am in zone 5a same as you. My piles usually freeze for several months during the winter. I don't worry about it. When spring comes the piles go back to work and heat up. Then I resume turning them.

I have had a compost for about 25 years and have lived for many of those years in zone 3. I guess I was just looking for a challenge this year, to try something new, just to see if I could. I guess I am trying to find a way to make the winter more interesting for a gardener.

So perhaps this is more of a past time.
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Re: How do I make my pile hot?

Post  Kelejan on 1/24/2013, 10:22 pm

My compost pile has about three feet of snow on top. I just relax and let Mother Nature see to it. Just look forward to the spring thaw when I can start turning it and adding all the stuff that I have collected over the winter. I am expecting this to be my best and biggest compost pile ever and also ready earlier than last year when I only started in the spring. Very Happy
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Re: How do I make my pile hot?

Post  GWN on 1/25/2013, 5:45 pm

So kelejan
is it as hot there as it is here today, seems a bit like spring here, everything is melting.
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Re: How do I make my pile hot?

Post  landarch on 1/25/2013, 10:54 pm

I am going to transfer some existing ground compost piles to a new Geo-Bin compost system tomorrow...I'll layer in the last of the greens from the fall garden (carrot tops, spinach, kale, brussel sprout leaves, lettuce), along with kitchen scraps and some organic fertilizer (Chickity-Doo Doo). If I have the time, I may try to track down another load of goat or horse manure.
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Re: How do I make my pile hot?

Post  Kelejan on 1/26/2013, 3:11 am

@GWN wrote:So kelejan
is it as hot there as it is here today, seems a bit like spring here, everything is melting.
Well GWN, it reached one degree over freezing today so perhaps one can consider it "hot". The snow on the road has turned to slush, then melted. Snow is forecast for the next few days, with temperatures hovering just above during the day or below freezing at night, but I would say it is the end of the hard winter and spring is on its way. Famous last words?
Driving conditions are mucky with having to use the windscreen wipers every time a truck passes in the opposite direction.
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