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Hot composting bins have become the ‘hot’ topic among eco-conscious gardeners recently. The reason being that these little gems offer a quick, easy way to turn your kitchen scraps and garden waste into nutrient-rich compost.
But what exactly is a hot compost bin? It’s basically a fancy way of saying that these bins use heat and microorganisms to break down organic material at a much faster rate than traditional composting methods. Plus, you can toss in all sorts of recyclable goodies like paper and cardboard.
In this guide, we’ll dive into the ins and outs of hot composting bins. We’ll cover the different types available, how to set one up, the techniques for hot composting, and even offer troubleshooting tips.
Types of Hot Compost Bins
There are tons of hot compost bins available on the market (we’ll cover some of our favourites below), each with their own set of pros and cons. Some popular options include:
Tumbler Compost Bins: These are cylindrical in shape and have a turning mechanism, which allows for easy rotation and aeration of the compost. They are designed to retain heat and moisture, which speeds up the composting process.
- Easy maintenance
- Little need for manual turning
- Can produce finished compost in a relatively short period of time
- Tend to have a high cost
- Limited capacity for composting large amounts of organic material
Worm Compost Bins: These bins use red worms to break down organic material, which speeds up the decomposition process. They are typically smaller in size and can be used in- or outdoors.
- Can compost food scraps and other kitchen waste
- Minimal odour
- Little-to-no maintenance required
- You’ll need to purchase and maintain a population of worms
- Slower decomposition process compared to other hot compost bins.
Batch Compost Bins: Batch bins are typically square or rectangular in shape and are used to compost a specific batch of organic material at a time. They are often made of wood or plastic, used indoors or outdoors.
- You can control the conditions within the bin
- Will produce finished compost relatively quickly.
- Manual turning
- Limited capacity for composting large amounts of organic material
Ultimately, the best type of hot compost bin for you will depend on your specific needs, such as the amount and types of materials you plan to compost, the space you have available, and your budget.
One of our favourites is the Aerobin Hot Composter which holds up to 400L and composts up to 4x faster than a traditional bin. Working to a tight budget? We also rate this model from Hotbin very highly.
Setting up a hot compost bin
This part is relatively straightforward, but it’s important to follow a few key steps to ensure that your compost comes out healthy and productive.
- The first step is to choose a location for your compost bin. It should be in an area that receives some sunlight, but also has some shade to prevent the compost from drying out. I personally like to place mine close to a water source, as moisture is important for the composting process.
- The next step is to assemble your bin. If you’ve purchased a pre-made bin, simply follow the manufacturer’s instructions. If you’re building your own compost bin, you’ll need to make sure that it’s well-ventilated and it has a tight-fitting lid to retain heat and moisture.
- Once your bin is set up, you can start adding your organic materials. A good rule of thumb is to layer “green” materials with “brown” materials, but we’ll discuss that next.
You’ll want to fill your hot compost bin with different types of organic material, such as green (fresh) and brown (dry). By combining the two, you’ll strike a balanced compost that has the right amount of moisture and oxygen.
When layering your organic materials, start with a layer of brown materials, such as dry leaves or straw, on the bottom of the bin. This will help to create that provides a source of carbon for the microorganisms. Next, add a layer of green materials, such as kitchen scraps or grass clippings—offering a source of nitrogen.
After each layer of green materials, it is recommended to add a thin layer of soil or finished compost, this will help to inoculate the new materials with beneficial microorganisms. Keep layering your materials until your bin is about 2/3 full. Then, I recommend adding water to the bin, aiming for a moisture content of about 50-60%. It’s important to keep the compost moist, but not waterlogged.
How often should I turn a hot compost bin?
To maintain the proper balance of moisture and oxygen, you should turn your compost regularly, ideally once a week, but at least once every two weeks. This will help to aerate the compost. It will also ensure that the compost is well mixed and should prevent it from becoming compacted.
When turning the compost, use a tool like a pitchfork to move the materials from the centre of the bin to the edges and vice versa, helping to redistribute the heat and moisture. It will also keep the temperature inside the bin consistent and should prevent the development of any odours or pests.
Hot compost bins v traditional compost bins
Hot compost bins and traditional compost bins are both great ways to turn organic waste into valuable compost for your garden. However, there are some key differences between the two methods.
- One of the main differences is the speed of composting. Hot compost bins can break down organic material much faster than traditional compost bins, which can take several months or even years. This is because hot compost bins rely on microorganisms and heat to speed up the decomposition process, whereas traditional compost bins rely on natural processes, such as weather, insects, and bacteria.
- Hot compost bins also reach much higher temperatures, which helps to kill off weed seeds and pathogens, which traditional compost bins don’t. This means that hot compost bins can safely compost a wider variety of materials.
- In terms of maintenance, hot compost bins require more frequent turning and monitoring of moisture levels to maintain the optimal conditions for composting. However, traditional compost bins require more space than hot compost bins, and, therefore, the process can take much longer.
Hot compost bin troubleshooting
While hot composting is a relatively easy process, there are a few common problems that can arise.
- One of the most common problems is a lack of heat. This can happen if the compost is not layered correctly or if there is not enough moisture. To fix this problem, you’ll need to add more green materials and water to the bin, ensuring the bin is well-ventilated. If the problem persists, you can try adding a compost starter to inoculate the materials with beneficial microorganisms.
- Another common problem is odour. This can happen if the compost is too wet or if there is an overabundance of green materials. To fix this problem, you’ll need to add more brown materials and turn the compost more frequently.
- You’ll also need to watch out for pests, such as rats, flies or raccoons, which can arise if the compost is not sealed well or it contains meat/dairy products.
- Lastly, pay attention to how much heat is generated. If your compost bin isn’t hot enough, pathogens will breed. To fix this problem, you should ensure your bin is well-ventilated and that you are turning the compost regularly to ensure that all of the materials are exposed to heat.
And that’s it! If you want to produce compost quickly with the option of using different materials, a hot compost bin may be the best choice for you. If you want a more natural and low-maintenance approach, or you have a lot of space, a traditional compost bin may be more suitable.