Compost – Hot and Cold

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 21,699
    Master gardener Ed Bruske discusses hot and cold compost for your garden.

    Ed Bruske

    An award-winning journalist for The Wasington Post in a previous life, Ed Bruske is a Master Gardener and president of D.C. Urban Gardeners, a group dedicated to the greening of the District of Columbia through public education and hands-on volunteer efforts. An accomplished public speaker, Ed focuses his lecture activities on composting and soil ecology. He practices daily organic recycling through composting and vermicomposting at his home about a mile from the White House, where he and his wife are transforming their corner lot into an edible landscape. Ed is a personal chef, caterer and chef-in-residence at The Washington Youth Garden, located at the U.S. National Arboretum in the District of Columbia. He also writes about composting and cooking from the garden on his blog, The Slow Cook,

    Hi, my name is Ed Bruske with D.C. Urban Gardeners. We are here in my garden in the District of Columbia talking about composting and I want to talk to you a little bit about some of these terms I have been throwing out, I hope they don't scare you and turn you off to composting because there are really all different kinds of composters, all different styles of composting. Some do not involve hardly anything at all, we call that compost happening because it happens all on its own. Then we have got people who take a very scientific, precise approach to composting and they deal in something we call hot composting.

    Right now, I have got my thermometer here inserted into my compost heap and it is not really doing very much, it is 90 degrees about inside the compost heap. It is a little over 90 degrees out here, it is actually a little cooler in compost heap. But if you were a hot composter, during the compost process, you would be looking for temperatures to get up to almost a 160 degrees and there are two main reasons for that, one is to kill any pathogens or diseases that might have got into your compost unlikely. The second reason is to kill any weed seeds that might have gotten in there and that can be a concern for a gardener. One tip I would give to everybody is, do not pull things out of the garden and put them into your compost heap that either have gone to seed or have diseases on them. Keep those out of your compost, because you do not want to spread those into your whole garden, but the hot composting also makes the compost happen a lot quicker. You have people out there who are looking for finished compost in just a matter of weeks and the only way you can do that is by generating a lot of heat, getting those bacteria in there that generate that heat going really quickly and while you are composting, the bacteria actually will visit to your compost heap in a progression, starting with bacteria who do not like it too hot and going up to bacteria, the Thermophile bacteria, who like it really hot. The other method as I say the lazy man's method, my preferred method, is sort of a what they call cold composting where it does not really matter too much how hot your pile gets or how quick your compost happens as long as it happens, as long as it composts and you are not attracting bugs and rodents and creating smells in your garden. Next, we are going to be talking about activators for compost, if you want it hot, you can get it hot with activators that really turn on the bacteria.