a hot heap should heat up to between 150 and 172F within 3 days of putting it together. for me the important thing seems to be a very fine grind-i use an electric rotary lawnmower. the proportion of green and brown doesnt seem to matter-my fall heap is from garden cleanup so lots of green. spring heap is final garden cleanup and lots of leaves, so mostly brown. if you turn the heap every 2 days to maintain heat the compost can be finished in eleven days. despite what you might read, after the initial assembly it doesnt take much time or effort to run a hot heap and if you have space constraints its great- mine goes where the veg garden is in the summer.
That hot-heap compost may still need to 'cure' for a month or 2. I have seen very high tech snazzy versions of this at the Sandringham cafe/restaurant. I think the compost was made in about 18 days, but the professional gardeners on the estate, combined with the instructions that went with the machine did not apply the compost for some time after; it was left in an open compost bay I believe.
if a heap in the middle of the garden is high tech. . . .i use the compost at all stages even when it is still warm-as for curing i didnt know it was sick.
This is what you will all call a slow heap! Compost beautiful and finished in the bin but colonised by ants, a hive I think would be a good word. I have a look at them whenever on the allotment, and marvel at the industry and the countless tiny grains of soil each processed and individually placed, the eggs and air vents. I see some out on the plot but I don't think they do any harm. I can't bear to destroy them and have plenty of compost nearby. Don't think there will be many to agree with me!
Interesting bit on G QT last week in which it was said that it wasn't necessary to turn compost in most gardens. It's just the huge piles that need the heat moved. I of course had just turned mine!
I have never been able to get a 'hot' compost bin. When I have time I shred (or mow over) woody material and add it with grass cuttings & that makes a nearly hot (steam rising) bin but it soon seems to cool down. I operate a 3 bin system.
Bin 1 is fresh material & the one I add to.
Bin 2 is 'cooking'
Bin 3 is usable compost
When Bin 3 is empty I turn Bin 1 into it & leave that to cook and start a new bin again in bin 1.
If my back was a bit stronger I would turn Bin 2 into bin 3 and bin 1 into bin 2 but I've only done that once & it cost me a fortune in osteopath bills!!
I think it is more important to get the right 'mix' of brown and green & to try to build up layers with coarser stuff mixed in with the shreddings. I also water mine (with both recycled tea and water) if it seems dry and I stir the top layers each time I add stuff.
Seems to work but stuff composted this season will not be usable till next year. I have always had a problem with seedy compost so this year I've been more circumspect about composting seed heads - I only do those which are still very green and I do shred them.
I have ants in mine too Hester - even though I try not to let it dry out too much.
The Charity 'Garden Organic' who taught us Compost Masters about making and using compost have recently advised, re turning compost;
Two particular areas of concern are
1. Inhalation of bioaerosols (microorganisms and/or other small biological particles suspended in air)
2. Contact with human pathogens (through inhalation, ingestion or skin contact)
The good news is that 'analysis of the available world-wide literature by Garden Organic found only two reported cases of hypersensitivity pneumonitis resulting from the domestic situation.'
'Little is known about pathogens in a domestic composting situation. Research ...the risk of exposure is low...'
I do not so much turn the entire compost bin as loosen it up to make sure that air gets in to avoid the process becoming anaerobic.
Thanks Artjak - 'loosening' sounds much better than 'turning'!
I know that you love composting (as do I - had a lovely day at the Henry Doubleday Research place a few years back - absolutely fascinating) so I am interested to know what type of compost bins you have.
I have some large plastic ones (nearly 2 cubic metres each). They open right out to allow me easy access to the compost & seem to compost faster than the traditional wooden ones I had before. They are also rot and mouse proof. They were also available at a 90% (!) discount through a council run recycling scheme
I have been thinking about getting a tumbler - have you got one? What do they think of them on your compost master courses?
HI Lily Pilly
I DO know what a tombola box looks like - guess that makes me 27 too...
How long do you think it takes to get the compost mature enough to use in the summer? I was wondering if they are quicker than my compost bins which take several months. Is yours large enough to accomodate much garden waste?
Love, love, love your garden by the way - you have done a really great job there