How to Hot Compost Food Waste and Wood Chips

I've been gardening and farming for a long time now (at least the last decade). All of this time, I haven't actually really devoted much time and effort to composting, especially the Berkeley method, aka hot composting. I always felt like it took too much time for me to research the method and then apply it. Inevitably, I would pile food waste in a corner far away so I couldn't see or smell it. There's really nothing wrong with doing it this way. Food waste will eventually break down. However, there might be more benefits associated with hot composting that you might receive.

For starters, the Berkeley method of hot composting can give you compost that you can actually use in the garden in 14-21 days.¹ That is extremely fast and very useful if you're constantly looking to add organic matter to your garden or farm. We have low organic matter in our soil, so we especially benefit from compost.

Another reason to hot compost is the potential it has to kill pathogens, insect eggs, and weed seeds.² This can give you even more of a head start on your growing season.

One reason I like the idea of hot composting is the use of wood chips. Wood chips are a wonderful addition to the garden but they do take a considerable amount of time to break down. Even the ramial wood chips, the smaller twigs and branches from the outer limbs of trees, take at least a full year or more to break down. I wanted to use these ramial wood chips as our brown carbon source to help balance the food waste that our household regularly produces.

I have been experimenting so far with this blend because it should be pretty accessible for many people around the country if not the world. Food waste will exist because there are some parts of foods we eat that we always discard. Wood chips are a common resource found in all parts of the world, too.

I have found that using a 1:1 ratio or even a 1.5:1 ratio of FOOD WASTE to WOOD CHIPS works best for the hot composting process. This might look different than other sites saying, 2:1 brown to green ratio. I have tried this ratio and the pile does not retain enough heat to keep the decomposition process going. It cools down after only a couple of days. So far with this 1:1 or even 1.5:1 ratio of greens to browns, the pile is staying hot, moist, and rapidly decomposing. I believe this ratio has to be unique if you are using wood chips because they are a 400:1 carbon-to-nitrogen ratio. That is one of the highest ratios you can find, so you need to supplement more greens to keep the pile hot.

I also like to add cherry-on-top ingredients to the compost piles if I have them available. We make 100% veganic compost, so I avoid any kind of byproducts or manures. I like to use these ingredients when I have them to give the compost a little extra juice.

Kelp Meal

Alfalfa Meal

Neem Seed Meal

Rock Dust

Soft Rock Phosphate

Yarrow Leaves

Nettle Leaves

Black Owl Biochar

I usually just add about 1/2 cup to a pile. It isn't about making these primary ingredients of the piles, but just to add more diversity and nutrition for the microbes. It has been said that adding ingredients like soft rock phosphate to your compost is far superior than adding it to your soil.³

I mix all the ingredients up together. I find that it helps to actually mix your compost ingredients before making a pile. More greens and browns are mixed better together and I assume it creates balance from the beginning. I then wet it down very well and start making a pile that will eventually get 3x3x3 feet to ensure the size is big enough to generate heat. Once it is made into a pile, I cover it with a black plastic tarp and let it sit for a couple of days. I then go back and uncover the pile and turn it very well, making sure the outside becomes the inside and vice versa. I repeat this every single day for two weeks. This will get you the fastest compost possible. I also make sure to wet the pile every day as I add some oxygen.

This is a new pile after a few days. Notice all the white mycelial action. This pile is steaming hot. I actually used food waste that had been fermenting for several months in a container so it was pre-digested pretty well. This pile, in particular, is going to be some seriously good compost.

Well I hope you enjoyed my little tidbit of information. Like I said, I think this ratio and method with food waste and wood chips has to be a 1:1 or even 1:5:1 ratio for GREENS to BROWNS. This will ensure you get the proper, rapid decomposition. Have fun composting!




235 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All