Hot Compost, Cold Compost? Not Compost. [Rant]

Hot Compost => Compost

Cold Compost => Biodegradation

Vermicompost => Vermicasting? But they’re not just castings => Organic Matter?

In my world, composting requires a certain temperature for it to be called compost. If it’s not hot it’s not compost, then it’s biodegradation. Composting is just biodegradation at a certain temperature for a certain amount of time, usually with the aim of killing off “pathogens”. Gah. because all pathogens don’t like it hot right? Ugh. It’s like the anaerobic vs aerobic pathogen argument, don’t get me started on that.

Vermi and compost make no sense together either, neither does cold and compost, yet everyone is doing it and sucking me in with their hot compost beliefs.

Biodegradation can happen at cold or hot temperatures.

Composting kills off microbes that don’t like it hot, that’s a given. How is that good for microbial diversity and plants that grow at ambient and not hot temperatures? Because you kill off some plant pathogens at those temperatures? At what cost?

Sure compost breaks down more things and faster, however people seem to place it on some pedestal. All that heat is just energy going up as hot air! Composting sends a lot of the matter and energy into the atmosphere. It also requires a heaped pile to keep the temperature high, and a concentration of materials is a great way to create pollution in the form of leachates in the one place too, especially when rained on. Raking or collecting materials for a pile might give you a nice clean garden but it also means less ground cover that could be providing multiple benefits to the soil too! But it’s neat, it’s tidy! It’s organised and sanitised! It doesn’t attract creepy crawlies.

Compost, what is it good for? Absolutely some things.

But not others.

I’d rather most materials were mulched and left as ground cover to biodegrade at ambient temperatures where possible. Whether that be plant litter chopped and dropped by plant or animal, or a hole dug and organic material buried. Organic litter feeds soil, it helps manage temperature, moisture and microbes. It’s a house and a job for the homeless all in one, the best kind of help those on the fringe can get with services like water to boot!

Mulch everything. Vermiculture, Ferment, Anaerobically Respire, Compost or Pyrolyse what doesn’t biodegrade at ambient temperatures.

Composting should be one of the last resorts, not the first.

Growing and feeding living mulch should be the first.

Maximising photosynthesis in order to create more mulch to maximise photosynthesis!

Feedback loops. The Green, and Red, and Purple, and Psychedelic Rainbow.

Not brown.


If it’s brown, thumbs down.

bare soil.jpg

If it’s bare, *death stare*


Down with compost piles!

And spread them around.

Let them slowly feed and nurture plants and soil, not themselves.

Formation of soil organic matter via biochemical and physical pathways of litter mass loss : Nature Geoscience : Nature Research





6 thoughts on “Hot Compost, Cold Compost? Not Compost. [Rant]

  1. I’ll add another rant-worthy compost misnomer. Leaf mold is NOT compost. It’s a fungal process. If you add grass to leaves with the aim of getting leaf mold what you get is compost. If you just add leaves and leave (no pun) for 9-12 months you get leaf mold. Grrr.


  2. I threw out the rules on composting long ago. I still make piles on occasion but they are for specific purposes, such as creating finished material for potting soil mixes and starting seedlings. Most of my composting is now chop-and-drop or terrifying anaerobic fermentation in barrels of water. If that’s allowed to be called compost, of course.


  3. Compost fits so well and everyone understands that, and as a broad mainstream term I think it works well. It’s just one of those words that doesn’t delineate well with me. I like organic matter and then terms like potting soil, something that others might call finished compost. 🙂
    Potting soil mix is probably the best use of a pile I can think of, you can never have enough of it! I have been trying to ween myself off it however and replacing it with freshly mulched garden soil. I use that and vermiculture leachate on seedlings for the plant growth promoters like IAA and gibberellins and other nutrients in it to give them some zing. One of the disadvantages of the anaerobic fermentations is the phenols produced, seedlings don’t always seem to like them so I only like to use that on established plants. Though I have been toying with the idea of creating a brewing system to culture a diverse range of microorganisms, like a Winogradsky column does. Something that is aerobic at one end and anaerobic at the other to try and create a diverse gradient of microorganisms to compare in trials. I’m thinking a long tube, possibly on an incline, with a bubbler in the high (aerobic) end and seeing how what brews up top is different to down low (the anaerobic end).


  4. “omething that is aerobic at one end and anaerobic at the other to try and create a diverse gradient of microorganisms to compare in trials. I’m thinking a long tube, possibly on an incline, with a bubbler in the high (aerobic) end and seeing how what brews up top is different to down low (the anaerobic end).”

    That really is epic. My straw hat is off.

    Liked by 1 person

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