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building a legit hot compost pile

August 14, 2009

I recently attended a hot composting workshop in our neighborhood put on by a local artist who has been doing a lot of organizing this summer in preparation for a community dinner this weekend.  Inspired to put into action the knowledge that was generously shared with me, I woke up this morning and decided to build a hot compost pile.  We had all the necessary ingredients and tools already on hand, so I was able to get right to work.
picking weeds for the compostFirst I went through the garden pulling out lots of weeds.  The weeds would be the nitrogen rich materials needed for the pile.  We have lots of weeds growing, so there was indeed an abundance.  Thse plants bring nutrients up from deep below the soil, so in a way, the weeds are helping!
mowing up the weedsI had already cleaned out the chicken coop bedding which contained straw (carbon) and manure (more nitrogen).  The next step was to shred the weeds with a lawnmower.  This increases the surface area of the materials and speeds up the reaction.  We got the mower for free from a friend, woohoo!
The last step was to build the pile.  The goal is to create a mass building up the layers of carbon and nitrogenof alternating carbon and nitrogen layers.  In between the layers you add water and some dirt or old compost (this primes the pile with all the needed microbes).  That’s it: carbon, nitrogen, dirt, water, over and over, until you have a pile that’s about 3 x 3 x 3 feet.  The finished pile didn’t make it quite tall enough, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed. I finished off the pile with a ring of chicken wire.
Pile done
Thanks Gretchen for taking the photos!

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