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Hot composting help

Hi everyone....this is my first post on here and hopefully not my last! We invested in a green Johanna hot composter last year and have been adding our garden/food waste to it for the last 9 months in the hope that we’d have some lovely compost for early spring...... what we actually ended up with is a foul smelling mixture that’s wet and stodgy! After spending many hours reading as many posts and bits of advice we decided to empty out the composter and start again.... what I’m hoping for is some advice on what exactly needs to be done and how often regards the amount each layer of food waste should be and how fine/coarse I should leave whatever goes in. Also any advice or comments that may help us achieve our goal and getting some usable compost would be great. Many thanks in advance Harry & Sarah

Last edited: 22 January 2018 16:18:22

Posts

  • pansyfacepansyface PEAK DISTRICT DerbyshirePosts: 20,092

    HELLO,

    I HAVE NEVER HEARD OF HOT JOHANNA. SHE SOUNDS LIKE QUITE A GIRL. I ONLY HAVE A REGULAR OPEN COMPOST HEAP (2 ACTUALLY, ONE IN THE PROCESS OF BEING FILLED AND ONE CLOSED AND COOKING).

    I STAYED HERE SOME YEARS AGO:

    http://visit.cat.org.uk/index.php/whats-to-see/15-compost

    AND WAS VERY IMPRESSED BY THEIR COMPOST HEAP, AN OPEN PILE OF STUFF ABOUT THE SIZE OF A SMALL BUNGALOW, WHICH PRODUCED THE MOST WONDERFUL COMPOST.

    MY CLEAR MEMORY OF THEIR SUCCESSFUL COMPOST MAKING ADVICE WAS:

    NO MEAT OR FISH. EITHER COOKED OR RAW.

    NO CITRUS PEELS.

    TWICE AS MUCH ”TWIGGY” GARDEN WASTE AS “SOFT AND JUICY”

    A LOT OF TORN UP CARDBOARD (NOT PLASTIC BACKED) AND A LOT OF TORN UP NEWSPAPER.

    HOWEVER, FROM WHAT ADVICE I HAVE READ ABOUT THE OLD JOHANNA, THIS DOESN’T SEEM TO TALLY. I KNOW WHOSE ADVICE I WOULD GO WITH THOUGH.

    Last edited: 22 January 2018 16:34:22

    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
  • All the material mentioned in Pansyface comments are correct.

    Basically mix green waste and brown waste material. Brown material of woody content need to be shredded down so it composts fast and mixes with green waste such as grass cutting.

    All waste material  need to be mixed well and an even balance of both. Turning or emptying and refilling the bin will enable all the material to mix consistently. I do this on a monthly basis based on the volume of compost in the bin

     Wetting the compost material will also speed up the process, but over wetting will do the opposite.Only apply water to your bin material when it's dry. I tend to water in all new waste I have placed in the bin.

    If your compost has a stagnant smell then I would suggest the balance of waste material is not right. Main problem are grass cutting that tend to heat up quick and need to be well mixed with other waste materials in the bin. If not then they will create a strong pungent smell. I shred everything to its smallest size before its goes in to my bins.

    In the colder months you can lay a section of carpet over the top of your waste material contained in your bins. This will retain some heat that will aid the composting process in the winter months

  • PosyPosy Isle of Wight.Posts: 3,199

    This sounds like awfully hard work!  I believe that an ordinary compost heap is the best because you can do as much or as little with it as you wish. I put in all the things Pansyface lists but some lemon peel goes in as well. I don't worry much about the balance of green and twiggy but I do turn the heap every now and then to make sure it is well mixed. The more frequently you turn it, the faster it will work but you can just leave it once it is ready to 'cook' and it will eventually turn into good compost.

    I haven't met Johanna either, but my daughter's dalek produces the most disgusting stuff.

  • Posy 

    Hi 

    As the question was why there was a pungent smell to the compost mixure, my reply was relevant imo

    It might sound a lot of work but to get the right balance of compost you need to cosider the balance between green and brown waste If you don't then, effectively, your compost will not have all the ingredients for using in the garden. Shredding , wetting  and turning the compost speeds up the decomposition so you can use your compost earlier. Obviously, it all about what quality of compost you want from your bins. In my experience, if you don't follow this process, you wont get the best compost that you could have achieved with a bit more effort 

  • Singing GardenerSinging Gardener EssexPosts: 1,187

    It doesn't look as if many of us here do hot composting but only the conventional kind! I googled your Green Johanna and it seems to get very variable reviews with at least one Amazon reviewer having a similar experience to you. I always thought that hot composting was only suitable if you had lots of waste - it's what councils use for their food and garden waste collections.

    Sorry not to be able to make a more useful contribution. Maybe someone else does use a hot composted and can give better advice.

    Last edited: 24 January 2018 11:51:27

  • Allotment BoyAllotment Boy North London Posts: 4,964

    I too have no direct experience of these HOT bins but I have read up on them the concept is quite different to the standard compost heap most of us are familiar with. The manufacturers claim you can put all waste including Kitchen waste into them. The idea being that they acheive much higher temperatures that in conventional systems so it can all go in. My guess is that it's too wet, some systems offer "bulking agents" to balance the liquid I would try shredded paper or cardboard, as fine as you can get it - the consistency of coarse sawdust if you can manage it, or even use sawdust or woodchip your local tree surgeon would be only too happy to oblige as it costs them money to get rid of it. It should be a fast process if you have been adding material for 9 months it's too dense & has not heated up enough. 

    Maybe you should contact the manufacturer & ask them what they recommend these systems are expensive they should have some customer service help desk.   

    Last edited: 24 January 2018 11:52:12

    AB Still learning

  • PosyPosy Isle of Wight.Posts: 3,199

    You may well be right, Steve, but my proudest moment was when a professional gardener complimented me on my compost THREE TIMES. I have known no modesty since. However, I did not intend to criticise your excellent method.

  • Hi Posy 

    No problems. 

    Happy Gardening 

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