Hot Composting, Step By Step



Mix together ingredients by laying then in alternating thin layers of “greens” and “browns”.

Wet the compost heap down very well so it is dripping water out of the bottom and is saturated.

§  Can put activator in the middle of compost heap to start off composting process. Activators include comfrey, nettles, yarrow, animal, fish, urine, or old compost.

Hot Compost



Turn the compost heap over, outside turned to inside, inside turned to outside.

To explain in more detail, when turning compost, move the outside of the pile to a spot next to it, and keep moving material from the outside to the new pile. When you’re done, all the material that was inside will be outside and vice versa.

Ensure that moisture stays constant. Put gloves on and squeeze a handful of the compost materials, should only release one drop of water, or almost drips a drop.

§  If it gets too wet, can spread it down, or open a hole about 3-4” wide with the handle of the pitchfork, or put sticks underneath for drainage.

Hot Composting


DAY 6 & DAY 8

The compost heap should reach its maximum temperature on these days. As an simple guideline. if you can put your arm into the compost up to the elbow, then it is not at 50 degrees Celsius, and is not hot enough. Best to use a compost thermometer or a cake thermometer.

Need optimum temperature of 55-65 degrees Celsius. At temperatures over 65 degrees Celsius a white “mould” spreads through the compost, which is actually some kind of anaerobic thermophilic composting bacteria, often incorrectly referred to as”fire blight”. (It appears when the compost gets too hot – over 65 degrees Celsius and short of oxygen. It disappears when the temperature drops and aerobic composting bacteria take over).

Temperature peaks at 6-8 days and gradually cools down by day 18.

Turn the compost heap over every second day (on day 6 and again on day 8).

§  If the compost pile starts coming down in size quickly, there is too much nitrogen in the compost.

§  To heat up the compost faster, a handful of blood & bone fertiliser per pitchfork when turning speeds it up.

§  If it gets too hot and smelly and goes down in size, it has too much nitrogen, need to slow it down, throw in a handful of sawdust per pitchfork when turning.

§  Using this system, the Berkley method, methane is released from the compost.

Hot Compost

Hot Composting

DAY 10 to DAY 18

Continue to turn the compost every 2nd day

Hot Composting

DAY 18

Just warm, dark brown, smells good.

When earthworms move into the compost, you know it is finished and ready, because it’s cooled down and full of nutrients!

Hot Composting

Some important points to note:

  • Locate your compost heap in an area protected from too much sun or heavy rain, to prevent the compost from drying out or becoming water-logged and slowing down the composting process.
  • Space required for your heap should be about 1.5 x 1.5 meters, and enough space in front of it to stand when turning the compost.
  • Water each layer until it is moist as you build the heap. After three or four days, give the compost air by mixing and turning it over, then turn every three days until the compost is ready, usually in 14-21 days. Remember, frequent turning and aeration is the secret of successful composting.
  • Turn the compost using a garden fork, or even better, a long-handled pitchfork.
  • In cold or wet weather, you can cover the compost heap with a tarp or plastic sheet, to prevent the rain cooling it down, since the water will penetrate into the core of the compost pile. Even though cold outside air will cool the surface, but not the core of the compost heap, by covering it, this prevents some heat loss from the surface to cooler outside air, and retains the heat within the compost heap better.

The above article above comes from Deep Green Permaculture, Happy composting!

Further research says:

Hot composting needs:

  • Carbon 2/3 (brown materials)
  • Nitrogen 1/3 (greens, activates and provides the fuel for the process)
  • Air (compost needs aeration, i.e. turning to keep the processes going-aerobic)
  • Moisture (the compost material should be as moist as a wrung out sponge)
  • Insulation (size of heap should be about 1 cubic meter so that the inside can build up heat and keep it)
  • You need all the ingredients to build the heap in one go, like baking a cake you put it all together in one session