Hot Compost: How Does It Work?

Compost is indispensable in the organic cultivation of vegetables. Without this fertilizer, many crops would grow poorly and give meager harvests. Compost is also an excellent source of food for soil life and thus ensures healthy soil that can store a lot of carbon.

You could almost say compost is the perfect fertilizer – if it weren’t for the long production time. But there is a solution to this problem as well: hot compost or also called hot composting. Within a few weeks, this method transforms the raw materials into black gold. Find out how it works in this article.

At a glance:

  • Carbon and nitrogen in a ratio of 25:1
  • This means: brown and green material in a ratio of 3:1
  • Crush material and mix well
  • Water until everything is moist, but not dripping wet
  • Pile into a heap and check the temperature every day
  • When the pile cools, dig it up to bring fresh oxygen inside
  • After 3-6 weeks the compost is ready

Hot compost: how does it work?

Let’s get this straight: hot composting is not for the lazy. This method is much more labor intensive than the classic compost pile, which is gradually filled with garden and kitchen waste. But if you need a lot of compost quickly to create a raised bed, for example, or to fertilize your high-growth plants in the fall, this method can be well worth it.

The basic idea is to make the work of the microorganisms in the compost as easy as possible by creating perfect conditions for them. This includes the right ratio of carbon to nitrogen, shredded materials, regular aeration and a constant water content.

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Hot Compost: How Does It Work?

Nitrogen and carbon: The ratio must be right

The most important factor that determines the success of your hot compost is the ratio of carbon to nitrogen. This should be around 25:1. While this number is all well and good, it doesn’t really help when choosing materials. To make things a little clearer, it helps to keep in mind which materials contain more nitrogen and which contain more carbon.

  • “Brown” materials (rich in carbon).
  • straw or hay
  • dry leaves
  • twigs and woody plant parts
  • Unprinted and uncoated cardboard
  • Paper
  • Sawdust and wood chips
  • “Green” materials (rich in nitrogen)
  • Fresh grass clippings
  • Kitchen waste
  • manure
  • coffee powder
  • Green clippings and weeds that do not yet bear seeds.

All of these materials have different nitrogen to carbon ratios. If using a mixture of some of the above materials, a ratio of 3 parts brown material to 1 part green material is a good guide.

Hot Compost: How Does It Work?


Optimally, when you start your compost pile, you will have enough of the above materials to build a compost pile of at least 1 cubic meter in volume. If the pile is much smaller, it will not warm up properly and the decomposition process will take a long time. Larger the pile may always be, because the larger it is, the warmer it will be and the faster the compost will be ready.

If you don’t have enough material in your garden to make a big enough pile, you can ask at recycling centers, youth farms, or your local farmer if you can pick up some green waste, manure, or even a bale or two of straw.

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In principle, a container is not necessary for compost, and it’s even easier to maintain if you simply pile up the materials into a heap. However, since the compost must not get too wet, a covered area or a tarp to cover it is an advantage.


  • James Jones

    Meet James Jones, a passionate gardening writer whose words bloom with the wisdom of an experienced horticulturist. With a deep-rooted love for all things green, James has dedicated his life to sharing the art and science of gardening with the world. James's words have found their way into countless publications, and his gardening insights have inspired a new generation of green thumbs. His commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship shines through in every article he crafts.

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