charging up a compost pile
Keep the pile as square as possible
I have done quite a few batches of hot compost. It is great because it is quick, processing in a matter of weeks, and gets so hot that it eliminates both weed seeds and pathogens. However, the disadvantage is that it must be turned every few days to keep up the heat. There is another factor less relevant to comfort and more to the garden soil.As the hot compost pile is powered by thermophilic bacteria that like heat, once it gets going, and I would like to have a great diversity of aerobic and anaerobic organisms which enrich my soil at normal temperatures, I make a mixed hot and cold pile. I do this by adding to the pile regularly, instead of making the pile all at once, to burn up in an internal conflagration. Then from time to time, if I get in heat producing materials like grass clippings and I have a bucket of humanure, I pump up the heat to sterilize the newly added part of the pile. to inoculate the pile with good bacteria and nitrogen to push up the heat I add green manure and urine (see http://www.greenidiom.com/anaerobic-composting.html). To make sure the heap is bulky enough to have good internal heat, I keep it square by loosening and sculpting it with a fork, so that it doesn't slope too much. You can see this in the picture. There is also a layer of algae under the straw, which I hydrated and rinsed of salt recently. Algae are wonderful for supplying the mineral elements not usually found in composting materials, ensuring the adequate nutrition and health of your plants. paper and cardboard are excellent materials for composting. The fibre in them increases the water holding capacity of the soil. I keep them in a half drum and soak them in gray water when I have enough paper. When I'm finished doctoring the pile I cover it in an old caravan tent to keep in the moisture. In our climate drying out is more of a danger than not having enough oxygen. It keeps the heat in nicely too. I'm going to keep it going for at least a year so that its well rotted and safe for the garden.