Hot compost anyone? Read it and weep

Here’s a photograph, taken on Friday, Nov. 28:

Compost 123 degrees

That, folks, is a thermometer. It’s the thermometer in my compost. It reads (in case you can’t see it) a hundred and twenty-three degrees Fahrenheit. (123°F.)

Others may be grateful for family, friends, turkey, jobs, whatever; I’m grateful for  the compost heap (which I mis-typed as “heat,” a serendipitous error).

I built this heap on Tuesday the 18th, the day before surgery, and in the days just after, husband Steve brought me progress reports: 120° on Thursday, 140° on Friday. On Saturday I hobbled out to see for myself: 140°.

Perfection. EPA guidelines say that compost needs to reach 131°F (55°C) to kill most plant and human pathogens. Above 160°-165°, it will also kill off most of the beneficial organisms you (or at least I) want to add to your soil, so 140°-145° is ideal.

I’m ecstatic. Since I can’t dance, I settle for collaring everyone foolish enough to come near my doorway: husbands, sons, friends, neighbors, mailmen—

“A hundred and forty-two!” I holler, getting a firm grip.
“Wha-at?” Already they’re starting to squirm.
“My compost! A hundred and forty-two!”
“A hundred and forty-two wha-at?”
“Degrees, you fool! My compost has reached a hundred and forty-two degrees!”
They still look more interested in their freedom than in my information, the idiots, so I thrust them from me; my cry, “The perfect temperature!” follows their fleeing backs.

Let them go. Who needs them? I’ve got hot compost. In November.

11 Responses to Hot compost anyone? Read it and weep

  1. I am glad to know another gardener cares as much about hot compost as I do. Seriously, I had a broken thermometer. I raged against my cool compost for almost a year before I realized the thermometer was busted. Congratulations from one who knows the true value of hot compost.

  2. Do you keep yours going through the cold months, Deb? I’ve only gotten mine really up to speed this past summer, and never imagined it was possible to keep things going this late in the year.

  3. Kate, Winter here in Texas rarely sees temps below freezing. However, the compost pile can get hot in cold weather, which is great because I can see steam rising from it.

  4. Awesome! Hope you are recovering as well as your compost is cooking. What kind of thermometer is that, a meat one or something?

  5. I can instantly see a solution to the price of fuel for heating crisis. Build a compost heap. In your living room. Lots of rooms to heat? Build several where they’re needed. Must tell James, he has a non-heating crisis at the moment… ;)

  6. Most excellent news indeed!

  7. This is why people think gardeners are nuts. Oh well–gives me more time to myself and happy little pursuits.

  8. I don’t even try this time of year. Though today was a balmy 50F so it is possible. But I could just imagine my compost pile. Frozen on the outside, hot on the inside.

  9. Hope you’re feeling better and that your compost heap cools down into black gold.

  10. Steam is a wonderful thing to see, isn’t it, Deb? I keep mine covered, so I only see the steam when I dig into it.
    Recovering well, Karen, thanks. (This surgery isn’t that big a deal.) As for the thermometer, it’s a bona fide compost thermometer. No meat thermometer would be big enough. Well, maybe a Texas-size one for barbequing a whole steer if there is such a thing (Deb?), but nothing else I can think of.
    I am inordinately fond of my compost heap, VP, but even I hesitate to bring it into the house. I did see James’s lament over his cold halls and house. (On Blogging from Blackpitts Garden, folks.) I wonder how chilly it is, in fact. My bedroom was 43 degrees on Thanksgiving morning. Brrr.
    Thank you, Susan, thank you. Much appreciated, I’m sure.
    What, Bejamin, because everyone avoids you? (Remember the blog title–I didn’t name it
    Manic for nothing.)
    That’s what the straw bales are for, Daphne. Oops–I guess I didn’t mention those yet. Tomorrow. I want to be able to do this because I need compost first thing in the spring, and I’m tired of buying it.
    Weeping SoreThanks. You’re in San Diego, aren’t you? (One of my old stomping grounds.) So you can compost all year round with relative ease. Nice

  11. Having seen your photo Kate, I admit there’s perhaps a slight practicality problem to my solution to the heating problem. Needs further thought and work…

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