Laissez Faire

Letting Life Lead

My Pathetic Garden #4: Feeling Hot Hot Hot Composting

At our old house we had a ten year old compost pile.   It wasn’t so much as a pile as a wall on the forest border of our property.  It was the place where we tossed our fall leaves, yard debris, food scraps, and our sawdust cat urine litter year after year.  We would pile it up high in the warm seasons, it would be crushed by snow, and in the spring it would shrink.   It never stank.  I had always intended to till, turn and use it, but the kids came along and my flower beds were pretty robust already (by sheer luck not effort).    The compost wall held back the poison ivy, kept the toddlers out of the woods, and sprouted volunteer tulips, so it was useful even in a neglected state.    I did use a wheel barrow full one year and it didn’t even put a noticeable dent in it.  The grass that grew in that super shaded part of the yard (where it had no business growing) was a ridiculous shade of impossibly bright green.     It kinds of hurts my heart now to think that we probably left behind over two thousand dollars worth of prime, aged compost.

Anyway, if you have followed me for a while, you have seen the pictures of our fall leaf debris.   We rake the entire autumn, then rake in the early spring.  There is just that much!   For the first fall we were overwhelmed and dragged piles and piles into our woods suffocating poison ivy as we went.   We mower mulched until the lawn cried for mercy . The second fall didn’t fare much better as we were again over run.   I tried to create the old wall type pile of the old house, but the sheer amount of leaf litter and lack of enough green made for a very slow decomposition.

This year, I am determined to utilise our twelve inch deep, endless sea of leaf debris.   We have maple, oak, pine and a couple of other trees we haven’t identified.  Pine needles, dried maple seeds, crush old acorns, and goodness-knows-what are abundant.   We even have old, cured wood ash from the past winter.


Here are my two low fuss, hot mound compost volcanos.   My husband mowed our lawn, and I had a wheelbarrow full of fresh grass clippings.    This area was six inches deep of leaf litter that had composted some on the very bottom.   You can’t see in the picture, but the moss that grows just out of frame is lush and green in this super shaded, nutrient dense area.

Oh, no that isn’t a dear behind last year’s Christmas Tree.  While there are deer here, that is a deer target for bow and arrows.  It came with the house.

I have never hot composted before and I didn’t want a complicated system.   I wanted it close to my no effort, compost wall utopia.    I settled on a 3×3 or 4×4 free standing volcano shape.    I did lasagna layers of leaves, grass, forest floor litter (old pine needles, brown maple seeds, old acorn bits, surface soil, forest compost) and kitchen scraps.    Each layer watered well.    I didn’t have a lot of kitchen scraps since lately we have been feeding the woods (aka toss as far as you can into the trees).

We will see how it goes after a full twenty four to forty_eight hours.   I started them last night, but got chased in by the blood suckers.   I finished them up this morning and checked them in the afternoon.  The middle felt quite warm when I added some watermelon skin peelings.

At worst I will have cleaned up some leafy mess and will have something next spring, at best I will have compost in three weeks.

Have you ever hot composted before?

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Aspiring writer, wife, mother of two, owner two cats. Teacher, lover of science, books, science fiction, fantasy, and video games.


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