By Member Victoria Stock

Three years ago the FGS began the new composting model where compost is laid out in rows and turned 6 times during the gardening season. This is called cold composting. Cold composting gets its name from the temperature range found in a stagnant compost pile. Cold composting does not utilize frequent turning and watering, keeping the decomposition temperatures cooler. Cold composting is a great way to manage large piles of organic matter, and can provide viable and fertile soil after a year. Drawbacks to cold composting are that it will not kill many seeds or plant diseases that are present with the items being composted.

Hot composting is most efficient with a smaller pile. Hot composting requires frequent turning and watering of your compost pile.  Turning and watering your hot compost pile 3 or more times per week allows the biodegradation process to work faster utilizing heat loving microbes. The frequent turning and watering of your pile will allow for quick breakup of clumps, the water will feed the microbes that are processing your organic material. The heat generated by your fast moving hot compost pile will kill many seeds, spores, fungi, and plant diseases. Hot compost is less likely to transmit weeds and diseases when used for garden soil fertility.

While we cannot hot compost our huge FGS compost piles, the cold composing has been very successful to channel our waste material, and does provide useful and fertile soil addition for our gardens. However, considering the limitations of cold composting, please try to exclude litter from your compost loads.

Recently we have noticed some VERY POISONOUS and invasive species (Jimson Weed) taking root and spreading in compost area 2 and 3. It is very important to stop this weed from taking hold in the fens. We can all help by not putting these seeds into the compost piles, where the ground is fertile for seed germination.

Gardeners who wish to use our free cold compost to enrich their soil can do so in a few different ways.  The easiest way is to simply integrate cold compost loam with your garden beds. Cold compost can be refined by making “tea”. This is easy to do and requires only a large bucket of water, and some cloth.  Place cold compost loam in a cloth “bag”, this could be an old t-shirt, or cloth bag, then suspend this in the water for a week or two. The nutrients will drain into the water and this can be used to water around your plantings. Using the cold compost in this manner will reduce the amount of seeds and disease that are transferred into your garden soil. Lastly, some gardeners have personal hot composting corners in their gardens. These hot composting piles can be fortified with cold compost for fast results! One word of caution though, your pile must be turned and maintained almost daily to prevent attraction of the Norway Rat!

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