Hot composting, also known as fast or active, is the quickest way to break down your yard and food waste. With the right combination of greens (nitrogen-rich materials) and browns (carbon-rich materials), water, and oxygen you can break down this material in your own backyard. You’ll have finished compost within 12 weeks to 6 months, depending on the size and how often you care for it.
What You’ll Need
- Compost bin – purchase one or make your own! A bin that is at least 3 x 3 x 3 feet gets hot enough to be most effective.
- Carbon-rich “brown” materials
- Nitrogen-rich “green” materials
- Shovel or pitch fork
How to Hot Compost
- Set up the compost bin in a place that will be convenient to use and maintain. Place it near a water source so it is easier to keep the pile damp and at least 2ft from any buildings to allow air flow.
- Make a thin layer of coarser brown material for the bottom.
- Layer two parts brown to one part green and water each layer as the pile is built. Use a mixture of size of materials so the pile doesn’t become compact. Chop up larger pieces so they decompose faster.
- Finish the pile with a layer of brown materials to deter pests.
- Turn the pile at least two times during the first 7-10 days to heat the pile to 130 to 140ºF, then every 1-2 weeks to re-mix in all materials and let in more oxygen.
Items to Add & Avoid
For best results, keep your compost pile vegan (plus eggshells) and leave out materials that will cause problems with the finished compost.
- Fruit & vegetable scraps (remove produce stickers)
- Coffee grounds, tea leaves
- Rice, grains, pasta, bread
- Green yard waste
- Coffee, tea filters (remove staples)
- Paper towels, napkins
- Paper, cardboard (shredded & non-glossy)
- Dried leaves & yard waste
Do NOT Add
- Meat, bones, fat
- Dairy products
- Grease, oils
- Glossy cardboard or paper
- Pet waste and bedding
- Charcoal or ashes
- Diseased plants
- Weeds that have gone to seed
- Large or thorny branches
- Materials treated with pesticides, herbicides, fungicides
- Compostable cups, packaging, BioBags*
*BioBags and other compostable materials were recently banned from backyard and commercial composting sites because of the chemicals they contain.
UW-Extension Master Gardener Manual: Foundations in Horticulture