Balancing The Composting Act
I normally like to keep blog posts generic so the tips provided are applicable to all kinds of composting methods. However, this week, I feel I need to be more specific to customers using HOTBIN or a similar aerobic hot composters, where composting relies on bacteria breaking down waste as air (aerobic process) circulates throughout.
Why Keeping a Balanced Composting Act is Critical
For the above mentioned aerobic composting process to work and be efficient, there needs to be what I am going to call ‘The Composting Balancing Act ’ in the amount of food-waste, bulking agent (mulch) and paper added with each batch of waste loaded in.
The right balance of these materials helps to create the optimum condition to maximize heat generation ―as a consequence of the decomposition and bacterial process―thus maximizing what nature does naturally.
In the case of HOTBIN, it works as an insulated chimney where air is drawn in via the aeration mesh (in the base). Air and oxygen percolates up utilizing the air spaces created by the bulking agent (mulch) and any excess steam or water vapor exits via the upper lid valve in the lid.
If needed, we can adjust the quantities later and this could be a new conversation… but let start with the best practices and start strong… and then we can talk about how to fix or rebalance our composting heaps if required later.
The Balancing Act
For the purpose of this post, I am going to use a caddy/pail/container to provide the right proportions, as the specific quantities will vary from user to user.
The right mix is as follows:
For each full caddy/pail/container of kitchen/food waste, add…
- Half a caddy/pail/container of shredded paper (to balance moisture).
- 1/5 of a caddy/pail/container of mulch or bulking agent (to create air spaces for oxygen flow and aid aeration).
Tips that applies to this particular task:
- Don’t forget to use the raking stick to mix the fresh waste, to evenly combine mulch and shredded paper throughout the heap each time you feed your compost bin.
- If possible. try to mix the very top couple of inches of the heap into the fresh waste. These will bring the existing bacteria into the new waste.
- When it’s really cold, bacteria may need a little help to warm up and start digesting waste. Use the kick-start bottle that comes with each HOTBIN with hot water and follow the label instructions to get the HOTBIN up to temperature.
- If you leave your bin for a couple of weeks unfed and it cools down, you can also use the kick start bottle to get it back to temperature, with fresh waste, bulking agent and shredded paper.
- Check the internal temperature (with the extra thermometer), before adding new waste. There is a variance between the lid thermometer and internal temperature and you want to know the composting heap temperature is above 104˚F before feeding any cooked food or weeds. If the HOTBIN is not above 104˚F, you may need to bring the temperature up by using the kick-start bottle with warm water and wait to add the new load.
- Recommended minimum waste added should be around 11 lbs./ week and the maximum about 11 lbs. every day (11 lbs. is roughly 1 gal. small container of food waste.
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