How do I make my compost hotter?

QUESTION: How do I make my compost hotter? My compost isn’t breaking down and just kind of sits there. What am I doing wrong? – Amanda L

ANSWER: There are a few best practices you can follow to keep your compost cooking. Compost generates heat as it decomposes due to the activity of the microbes that do the work of breaking down your materials.

You’ll know when your compost has finished the decay process because it will stop having spikes in temperature, as those microbes will have no more work to do and everything will be broken down. If you need your compost pile to heat up and start working more efficiently, follow the guidelines listed here.

  • The larger your stack of compost materials is, the hotter it can get. In order to get into the higher temperature ranges, your compost pile must measure at least three cubic feet. 
  • Increasing the amount of “green” nitrogen-rich materials in your compost can help speed up the decay process.
  • Your compost should stay evenly damp, and the moisture level should be about that of a wrung-out sponge. 
  • Turn your pile every few weeks to aerate it, but don’t go overboard and stir things up more frequently, or you risk disturbing and interrupting the microbial activity compost depends on.

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