How to Heat Up Compost


Composting is a recycling process, which begins by layering organic materials, manure or fertilizer and soil. The organic materials, such as shredded paper, garden debris, vegetable trimmings, eggshells and coffee grounds decompose, and together the compost materials produce a rich gardening soil. The compost pile must exceed 110 degrees Fahrenheit for process to occur. If a compost pile cools down, the gardener can take steps to heat up the compost. Gardeners use compost thermometers to monitor the temperature of the compost pile, which should be between 110 and 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

Step 1

Remove any large materials from the pile. Before adding items to a pile, they need to be broken up into small pieces. If large pieces made their way into the pile, remove them.

Step 2

Turn the compost pile, using a pitchfork. While a compost pile might only require turning once a month, a pile that needs heating may require more frequent turning, perhaps once a week or every two weeks.

Step 3

Add more nitrogen material to the compost pile. A pile that needs heating may have an insufficient amount of nitrogen. The carbon-to-nitrogen ratio should be around 30 parts carbon (by weight) to 1 part nitrogen, according to the Cornell Waste Management Institute.

Step 4

Add some 10-10-10 fertilizer to the pile, less than one cup per each 25 square feet.

Step 5

Increase the size of the compost pile, if needed, as a small pile will be unable to maintain the proper heat. A home compost pile should be at least 3 feet by 3 feet. A compost pile larger than 5 feet by 5 feet will be difficult to manage.

Step 6

Sprinkle the pile with a garden hose while turning, to keep it as damp as a wrung-out sponge. A compost pile that dries out will not heat up properly.

Things You'll Need

  • Pitchfork
  • Garden hose
  • Nitrogen materials
  • 10-10-10 fertilizer


  • Cornell Composting: Compost Physics
  • Cornell Composting: Compost Chemistry
  • University of Illinois Extension: Building Your Compost Pile
Keywords: heating the compost, heat up compost, compost pile care

About this Author

Ann Johnson has been a freelance writer since 1995. She previously served as the editor of a community magazine in Southern California and was also an active real estate agent, specializing in commercial and residential properties. She has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from California State University of Fullerton.