Composting-am I doing it right?


12 Years
Jun 10, 2009
Portland, OR
Well this previous fall a started puting my scraps to use and began composting. Things have been going fairly well, it doesnt smell and it apears to be decomposing. But there is one thing missing, I'm not getting any heat out of it. I've heard you know youre doing it right when on a cold day you can see heat rising of your heap, but I havent seen that yet. And its certainly cold enough. It's my irst time composting so I really only know what I've read from the forum. I just don't know if I'm doing it right
To get your compost pile to heat up you have to have a 50/50 or there abouts mixture of what they call browns and greens. Greens are your table scraps and manure. Browns are stuff like leaves, straw and shavings. There is all kinds of info on the internet about this but basically you need the right ratio of carbon to nitrogen plus moisture and oxygen ( composting is an areobic activity). This is where using some straw helps because it adds bulk and allows air to get into the middle of the pile.

Oh, its is hard to get a lot of heat on cold days but on cooler days you should see steam.

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Red4x4 gave good advice on getting a hotter pile.

You can still get good compost from a cooler pile, it just takes longer. There are times I pile a big bunch of stuff and just leave it. The thing that's good about a really hot pile is that you get compost faster and if there's anything you want sterilized, like weed seeds, it takes care of it. I don't put diseased foliage in my compost pile, not even my hot pile, so I don't worry about that.
The size of the pile also has an affect. Larger piles get hotter due to more decomposer activity and the ability to hold the heat better.

There is also some recent thoughts that the mix ratio should be more of a 3:1 (green to brown) than the 50/50. I say that with a caveat because there is always an "expert" with a new theory. You can always try different ratios and see what happens.

Good luck with your brown gold.
I only see steam in the winter on my compost heap after dh adds his special "compost activator"
(aka he wee's in a bucket and throws it on to help activate the process)

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