Hot Composting

Hot (or active) composting uses microbes to breakdown the matter. Some experts recommend you inoculate the compost with live organisms in order to speed up the process. While others will recommend adding in healthy top soil as it also contains live organisms that will convert your organic matter into compost material.

Either way, once the process is started your compost pile will generate heat. You should tend or check on your pile every second day to ensure good air circulation is maintained and that the right level of moisture is kept.

Here is a list of the most commonly used hot compost items from the kitchen:

* Vegetable peels and seeds
* Fruit peels, cores, and seeds
* Coffee grounds – you can compost the paper filter too
* Tea bags or loose tea leaves
* Crushed egg shells – do not add left-over eggs cooked or raw
* Breads

You may be tempted to add other food scraps into the bin, but don’t.  You should not add any animal meat or bones, oily products, or fish remains.  Not only will they attract unwanted pests but they will make your compost smell bad.

It is a good idea to have a container with an airtight lid to store the food waste in your kitchen. You don’t want to attract insects or pests inside your home nor do you want to be running to your compost bin every time you make a meal or snack. If your kitchen container is airtight you will also cut down on unpleasant odors.

Non-Edible Composting Items

In addition to the acceptable food scraps you can use to hot compost, there are many different organic items you can add too. Some of the items on the list may surprise you while others will be ones you have heard of before. Just remember, by composting these items you are reducing the amount of waste that your home produces.

  •  Lint collected from your dryer (only from natural fibers, such as cotton – avoid man-made materials as they will not breakdown in your compost pile,)
  •  Cardboard, cut into strips or small pieces
  •  Hair, make sure that is isn’t put in as one large clump
  •  Manure (from a horse, pig, or cow, preferably aged)
  •  Tree leaves, cutting or chipping them helps them break down faster
  •  Newspaper (considered brown food), cut into strips. Do not use the glossy pages and do not add too much (it can dry out the pile)
  •  Pine needles and pine cones
  •  Sawdust and wood chips (or shavings) as long as it is from untreated wood
  •  Straw – even better if it is used straw from horse bedding
  •  Grass clippings (green food), IF your lawn has not been treated with commercial fertilizers, weed or bug killers
  •  Seaweed or algae (you can get these from your home aquarium)

Larger items should be broken down as much as possible to speed up their decomposition.  Here are some additional tips to help you with your composting efforts.

*Most of these items can also be used in the cold composting method.  The main exception being manure.

Cold Composting

If you do not have the desire or time to maintain a regular compost bin, starting a cold compost (or slow compost) may suit you better.  In a cold compost, you are only using your yard waste and grass clippings instead of a combination of outdoor material with your kitchen scraps.  All that is required of you is to pile your leaves and grass clippings into a pile and wait.  The process is slow and long – it will not yield usable compost for up to one year.  Be careful not to put in any weeds or other undesirable plants, as there is no heat they will survive the composting process and can grow again when you use the finished material.

If you generate quite a bit of yard waste and it is too much to include in your regular compost bin consider using both hot and cold composting methods.  You can have the best of both composting methods.