What I’ve learnt from a year of HotBin composting

This time last year, after much deliberation, I took the plunge and bought a HotBin composter. In a nutshell, the idea is that the insulated bin superheats the garden and food waste up to 60C, reducing the time it takes to turn it into compost.

HotBin composter

Does it work? Yes, if you’re willing to put in some effort and follow the instructions. I say this because to achieve optimum conditions in the bin you need to mix in enough shredded paper to stop things getting too wet (but not so much that they’re too dry) and enough bulking agent such as bark chips to maintain airflow through the compost (otherwise you end up with a smelly, anaerobic sludge).

View inside the HotBin

In the last year there are times when I’ve had the HotBin purring along at 60C or even 70C. But there have been other times when I’ve had a smelly sludge on my hands – all too literally – because I haven’t got the mix right. However, any problems have been pretty easy to rectify and there are loads of tips and advice on the HotBin website to help you.

And what about the compost itself? The nature of the HotBin means the compost you get out is damp and chunky, but you can sieve it if you want it finer and it’s great for mulching fruit bushes.

I’ve tried slow composting in home-made pallet bays (too slow, too attractive to rodents and too space-hungry in my small garden). And I’ve tried wormeries (too fiddly for my liking). The HotBin is the best way I’ve found to turn waste into compost quickly in a small space.

Has anyone else got one? What’s your preferred way to compost?

9 Comments Add yours

  1. Lovely update Matt you should pop over to Keep calm and compost group on Facebook and share you finding if your not already on their i only just joined we having a nice talk about composting at present
    from cold composting, wormy, and other things have a blessed day Matt

  2. Flighty says:

    I think that they’re a good idea for small gardens. I just have one ‘pallet-bay’ compost bin which I usually empty late February or early March.

  3. Fiona Rynn says:

    We’ve had one for over two years now and love it. We mostly use wood chips and sawdust from our wood pile; no shredded paper. It’s working really well. Put in a handful of wood chips on top of a colander of kitchen waste. Important to break up solid lumps of waste before putting them in or they are slow to break down. When we empty the base of the Hotbin – usually when the bin is about 3/4 full – we put the compost into a rotating composter (a Jora) which is full of tiger worms, add some more wood chips and then leave it to mature for another 2 months before using.

    1. It’s interesting that you don’t use any shredded paper, Fiona. Does the sawdust do the job of stopping it getting too wet?

      1. Fiona says:

        We have plenty of wood chips available from chopping up wood for our wood burner and have previously found shredded paper can clump together and get slimy. As long as we keep a mix of about 50/50 brown to green matter then the compost isn’t too wet.

      2. Yes, I’ve had a few problems with shredded paper getting clumpy – I’ve found I really have to make sure it’s mixed in evenly. I also have woodpile chips but in general have more green than brown waste so have to be vigilant against slime!

  4. Judy says:

    How are you getting on with your Hotbin Composter, Matt? I have two wormeries, two Bokashi bins, and a ‘pile in the wild corner’ for garden turf, garden cuttings etc. Which just seems to be turning into a mini-mountain!
    I am tempted by the Hotbin… I like the all-in-one simplicity and cleanliness of it. As well as the speed, if it does indeed work.
    But I have become a little too attached to my worms… They do such a great job, and the compost they produce is really rich and goes a long way when mixed with topsoil.

    1. It does work and get very hot (I’ve had it up to 70C before now) although but it takes a lot more careful management than a pile-in-the-corner type thing. However, if you’ve got a wormery you’ll be used to that I think. I’d say the compost you could expect to get from a Hotbin would be very different to that from your wormery – a lot coarser. It can be sieved but I tend to use it for mulching. Hope that helps.

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