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What is Hot Composting Versus Vermicomposting

hot compostingMany vermicomposting enthusiasts know about a technique to break down organic waste to produce fertilizer without using worms: hot composting. Although both produce organic fertilizer, there are many differences. The type of bin, location of the bin, setup, and day-to-day feedings are not the same. Also, the resulting organic fertilizer from worms is different than from hot composting.

First, let’s explore hot composting, especially for those individuals unfamiliar with this method.

Some Facts about Hot Composting:

  • Hot composting usually done outdoors. It requires land. Therefore, most hot composting is done in a suburban or rural environment.
  • It can be cost-free to start. Just choose any surface outside and away from any buildings. Make a bin or pile at any depth. Toss in food scraps, garden scraps, grass clippings, seeds, rabbit poop, and seasoned bovine manure. However, you should consider investing in a composting bin. Bins keep everything together, reduce vermin and pests, and can be covered easily. Some bins can be spun for quicker turning. Some bins have a drawer for easy harvesting.
  • You will need to learn how to balance brown material with green material for optimal hot composting.
  • The volume of organic material doesn’t matter. Add as much as you want at any time.
  • The best internal temperature for hot composting is 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • The compost pile naturally heats up from the aerobic process. There are times when the temperature can exceed 200+ degrees and produce steam. Temperatures that high will kill beneficial microorganisms. Occasionally, your compost pile may steam.
  • No worms are involved in hot composting except for the few who venture inside before they are killed off by the heat. Red Worms die off in temperatures over 95 degrees.
  • Most pathogens that come with the organic matter are killed from the high temperature.
  • Be ready for a workout. The pile requires aeration on a regular basis. The compost must be turned and moistened lightly. In other words, you will use a pitchfork or shovel to hoist the material physically. Turning allows air in. Tools such as a screw-style compost turner or a tumbler-style composting bin with a crank reduce labor. (Note: This is a stinky activity, so you might want to wear a scarf or clothespin on your nose!)
  • A note of caution: should the compost pile be neglected, it will smell horrible. And will take more time for the organic material to break down.
  • Hot composting takes 6 – 9 months to produce fertilizer.
  • Cold or hot weather is no problem. Hot weather helps the pile break down faster. Cold weather slows down the composting process. You can keep adding as many scraps as you want year-round.

Although at first glance, hot composting might appear to be the simpler solution. However, there are quite a few advantages of vermicomposting with worms.

Top Benefits of Composting with Worms:

  • Vermicomposting can be done either indoors or outside.
  • Some people make their own composting bins to save money. However, a tray-based composting bin is less work and ideal for composting with worms. Check out our composting bins and worms. Unlike hot composting, no large scale tools are required.
  • You can easily order worms online at Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm. After the initial setup, your worms will probably renew themselves by reproducing.
  • No need to worry about brown vs. green balance in your worm bin. The bedding is the “brown.” The food is the “green.” Feed the worms properly and they will maintain balance in the bin.
  • Does not require manual hard physical labor. Outdoors. On a regular basis.
  • Your worms do their own aeration. They eat little tunnels. These tunnels let in water and air. They also make the compost “fluffy,” making it a perfect soil amendment.
  • The resulting organic fertilizer is actually worm poop or “humus”. Filled with soil-friendly microorganisms, humus is prized by gardeners.
  • Disposal of food scraps is convenient with indoor vermicomposting bins.
  • Even apartment dwellers can have vermicomposting bins.
  • It’s easy to harvest the compost.
  • When maintained correctly, there is no odor.
  • No steaming compost pile.
  • Vermicomposting runs cool and doesn’t kill pathogens. Properly maintained, there are few bad microorganisms.
  • A faster rate of composting, around two to three months.
  • Your composting worms, just like any other family pets, require care.

Comparing the Two Composting Methods

Both methods have advantages. However, vermicomposting is a family-friendly, environmentally safe way to dispose of food scraps. Land is not required, and odor is reduced. The food scraps break down faster. Also, the resulting fertilizer is fluffier and has more soil-friendly bacteria.

Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm is the #1 Leader in America of live vermicomposting worms, composting bins, and accessories. We breed and grow worms at our rural farm in Pennsylvania. Our top selling live worms include Red Worms (the Composting Kings), and European Night Crawlers (great for composting, aeration, and fishing bait). Feel free to check out our website and blog. Contact us with any questions so that you will have a wonderful vermicomposting experience.

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