Hot Composting…and how to save $120

Since we have been harboring a rather unsightly cold  compost pile (made of  lawn and garden waste) in our backyard for about a year now, we’ve decided to make the switch to “hot” composting for the sake of tidiness as well as an opportunity to utilize our food scraps and the deep bedding that has accumulated in the chicken coop all winter.

Hot composting is a method that rapidly speeds up the decomposition process.  It is done in a contained environment and requires creating a ration of “green” and “brown” ingredients that should be added at a specific ratio (usually 3:1 or 4:1 browns to greens, browns being paper, leaves, cardboard, etc.; and greens being fruit and veggie scraps, chicken manure, etc.) and  mixed and watered at regular intervals.  It’s more involved than just a plain compost pile, but *should* yield usable compost in about six weeks.

We had our eyes on one of those slick-looking compost tumblers found in gardening magazines and had even found a couple models down at the local Tractor Supply.  But the price sticker, on-sale for $140, was seriously absurd for something we were planning to put umm… sh*t into.  Plus, as we were looking at the design we noted that the whole apparatus was really just a plastic cylinder with a few holes on each end sitting on a mount that allowed it to be turned easily.  Something sparked in my memory from composting book about making a “trash can composter” that could be turned by rolling it across your yard a few times…

We came home, googled “trash can composter” and quick enough came upon this handy link explaining the process.  So we headed back to TSC, picked up a $14 plastic trash can, a $3 roll of duct, and some $2 bungees and came back home.

Here we are, babe bundled up for a warm but breezy April afternoon, with our materials.

The essentials:  Trash can with lid, duct tape, apoxy, bungee cords, old ripped screen, happy baby, coffee (life elixer)

Wyatt used a kitchen knife to cut holes in the sides and top of the can.  One of our dilapidated window screens served perfectly for creating little screens to cover the holes.  We affixed these with some apoxy letfover from a home improvement project and then covered the apoxy with some duct tape for extra measure.  To finish the project we put secured the lid  with a few bungees that will allow us to tip the can over and kick it around the yard a few times.  Easy Peasy.

Technical skills at work

A demonstration in fine craftsmanship

It ain’t rocket science

Then on to filling it up.  I volunteered to be the one to clean out the chicken coop, which was full of a winter’s worth of nastiness.  This turned out to be a much larger job than anticipated since there was probably two feet of bedding in there.

After filling the can we added our kitchen scraps, some of our old yard compost and a few shovelfuls of garden dirt .  We’re not sure of the “ratio” we’ve got in there, but the chicken straw is considered “brown” and the chicken manure  is “green” so after making the additions we’re hoping we’re around the right level.  Planning to just watch the process and adjust as needed.  Wyatt’s been rolling the can around several times a week and it seems to already be losing some mass.

Will give you an update on the process!  Hoping this $20 investment will yield some fully composted black gold to top dress our early garden beds this spring!


4 responses to “Hot Composting…and how to save $120

  1. Awesome you guys! Good work!

  2. Life elixir, indeed!

    This is brilliant! I’m putting it on my list of Composting Things To Try Someday When We Have a Yard. Along with vermicomposting. Living in the frozen North, as we do, it seems like worms might be a good way to go.

  3. very innovative, I love making alteration to existing objects. Multifunctionality

  4. Hi,
    I saw this article and your cheerful Spring Fever article. I haven’t had a garden since my son was in Boy Scouts, but I miss it now that he’s grown. We used to grow tomatoes and beans.

    My name is Ed Hill and I write a marketing blog called . I work with the Engauge Marketing agency in Atlanta. Right now I’m working with gardening community to share links to their gardening videos. You’re welcome to link to these videos if you think they may be useful.

    Here’s a link to a video where Greg Speichert, from Indiana University, does a 3 minute video about starting onions from seeds. You’re welcome to use this video in your blog, if you like: How to Grow Onions from Seeds
    There’s also a video about container gardening:
    Please contact me if you have any questions about the video. If you’re able to use the video, please let me know. My email is

    Thank you,
    Ed Hill

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