What’s the difference between hot and cold compost piles

Landscape Ideas Dallas: Cold and Hot Compost by Dallas Curb Appeal Landscape Contractor Maria Bargellini

A hot compost pile is just that, a pile of compost that is made to create heat to more quickly activate the biology in your decomposing matter and produce compost faster than a cold compost pile. You need to contain your pile in a made structure or purchase a bin that will limit the amount of airflow in your pile.

Temperature in a hot compost pile can reach over 170 degrees. Care must be taken not to allow the pile to reach or stay at 170 degrees. 130-150 degrees is ideal to kill weed seeds and excite the worms and microorganisms.  To lower the heat you can turn your pile or simply add water to it. For faster results your hot compost pile should be a mix of brown carbon material such as fallen leaves, and green nitrogen filled material such as grass clippings.

A cold compost pile is one that does not depend on the use of a container but may be contained in one. It is started the same way as a hot pile but the layers are not added all at once but overtime as it is collected. This may take 1-2 years to yield compost. Shredding of material can speed up the process. Care must be taken to ensure that the pile does not dry out and that it is turned regularly to mix the contents and stimulate the micro and macro organisms.ShareThis

How to make a Simple Compost bin Dallas

How to make a Simple Compost bin Dallas

Landscape Ideas Dallas: How to start a compost pile by Dallas Landscape Contractor Maria Bargellini

Now-a-days compost bins are available in almost any box store but for those of us who want to do it the old fashion way- here are some ideas your can use.

Materials Needed

  • Chicken wire or any type of wire lath (preferably metal)
  • Post–Metal or wood (preferably with holes in it)
  • Tie Wire
  • Tarp or plastic sheathing
  • Hammer
  • Pliers


  • Your container(s) should be made no smaller than 3cft. (3’ tall x 3’ wide x 3’ long) for effective composting.
  • Pick a shady spot and layout and mark your 3’x 3’ section(s)
  • Set your post on the 4 corners of your marks. If your compost pile begins to bulge in the middle you can add additional post later.
  • Unravel the lath and stretch it out around the inside of the post.
  • Use the tie wire to fasten the lath to the post to secure it in place

Landscape Ideas: What to put in your compost pile

Landscape Ideas: What to put in your compost pile

Landscape Ideas Dallas: Cold and Hot Compost by Dallas Curb Appeal Landscape Contractor Maria Bargellini

What to put in you Compost

  • Fruit pieces & cores
  • Vegetable scraps
  • Grass Clippings (Fresh/Old)
  • Hedge Clippings (small preferably
  • Coffee Grounds/ Tea Bags
  • Cardboard & Paper (Shredded or Ripped glossy OK)

What NOT to put into your compost

  • Meat and Fish
  • Cheese or other dairy
  • Left Over Food
  • Metals, Glass or Plastic (recycle properly instead)
  • Animal or Human Waste
  • Fireplace, BBQ or Coal ashes

Put smelly food compost items inside your pile toward the center so that it can be broken down faster and reduce smells that entice animals to have a party in your pile.ShareThis

Landscaping Ideas: Tips on Buying Compost

Landscape Ideas: Tips on Buying Compost

Landscape Ideas Dallas: Tips on buying compost by Dallas Landscape Contractor Maria Bargellini

1- Pick a good supplier

In the world of google and web complaints there’s bound to be good or bad stuff on-line about your compost supplier. Do your research.

2-Know what’s in your compost

Ask your supplier where they get their materials for their compost and what the organic content is in their compost blends. The highest grade compost is called Class A or Class I.

3-Be careful with manures

Some compost is made with animal or human waste. There is no regulations for manure and there’s no way to be 100% sure what’s in it.

There are many factors in using manures in your compost.

4-Do not use compost for edibles

Unless you’re 100% sure of what’s in it, do not use compost in food producing gardens.

5-Ask a professional

Most landscapers professionals in Dallas will be happy to supply you with a resource for compost..

6-Ask your neighbor with the great yard

Everyone has that house in the neighborhood that’s lush and gorgeous. Ring the bell, compliment them on their garden and ask them what they are using. Gardeners love to share.

7- Consider making it

The best organic compost is the one you make yourself from materials in your own organic gardens.

Soil building systems

Living Earth Technologies

Compost Classes

Compost Classes

Landscape Ideas Dallas: Compost Classes by Dallas Landscape Contractor Maria Bargellini

These are links to organizations, nurseries, and other resources to help you help you get the most out of your composting efforts.

If the links are not currently showing a listing for composting classes check back periodically as these websites offer a wide variety of classes throughout the year and update their list regularly. In addition you may request for classes to be created and held if you have enough interested members.

Worm Composting Classes Keller

City of Dallas- Green Calendar—There were composts classes recently held in Dallas and luckily for us Dallas County has been making great strides in offering classes to educating the community on composting and other organic practices.

Texas Discovery Gardens Classes—I have taken the master composter class at the Texas Discovery Gardens and it was a Great Class. I got more than my money’s worth and I am grateful to the Discovery Gardens for affording me the opportunity to learn from their tremendously knowledgeable and helpful panel.

Dallas County Master Gardeners—This is a great resource that is not used often enough. Great gardening advice is just a simple FREE phone call away.

North Haven Gardens—I just love this place, they have great classes and a fantastic staff.

to view and download for free, Joeseph C. Jenkins The Humanure Handbook A guide to composting human manure. click here

The City of Denton Compost click here.

Compost and temperature

Landscape Ideas: Bat Guano

Posted under compost by dca on Thursday 20 May 2010 at 2:39 pm

Bat Guano

Landscape Ideas Dallas: Bat Guano by Dallas Landscape Contractor Maria Bargellini

Bat Guano is a fantastic type of manure to use whether you put it into your compost pile or directly into your garden. Bat Guano is the excrement (feces and urine) of bats that has been collected from their caves.

Guano is useful because it has a high concentration of nitrates and phosphorus. Also, a bats diet consists of small insects and fruit which make their guano ideal to use as it is less likely to contain foreign pollutants, or harder to break down materials. Bat Guano is a very fine particle manure. Its texture is closer to sand making it water soluble which makes it a versatile manure to use.

Bat Guano has several uses. It has even been used to make gun powder and explosives. The Incas collected guano from the coast of Peru to enrich the soil, much like we do today. Bat Guano was such a commodity in the late 1800’s that it is said to have been one of the reasons for The War of the Pacific’s, between Peru-Bolivia and Chile.

Although I think Bat guano is the best manure to use I do not personally use any type of manure in my compost pile or garden unless 1- I know the animal it’s coming from and 2- If I what the animal is being fed and lastly 3- If that animal is not fed antibiotics or any other type of foreign or synthetic material.

Bat Guano is great to use but unfortunately the constant harvesting of the guano may be linked to a decline in the Bat population, read more here

Landscape Ideas: How to Start a Compost Pile

How to Start a Compost Pile

Landscape Ideas Dallas: How to start a compost pile by Dallas Landscape Contractor Maria Bargellini

Materials list

  • Compost Bin – 3’Long x3’Wide x 3’Tall (more info…)
  • Brown material l- Dead Leaves, ground up twigs, dead & decaying plants (Carbon)
  • Green material – Freshly picked plant material grass clippings (Nitrogen)
  • Water
  • Meat or compost thermometer


For a hot compost pile you should have all the materials on hand and select a location in the shade. Your hot compost pile ingredients should be in the same state of decomposition. Placing large items, like branches in your pile will slow down the process. Compost should not have any recognizable material in it when it is harvested. It should look and smell like compost.

Start the bottom of your pile with twigs and small branches so that air can flow through. Line the first 12 inches or so with this type of material. Compost needs both moisture and air to support the biology that will begin to once your pile is created.

Mix your brown and green material on top of those branches in a layer of 1-2 feet high and mix them together while adding water. This material will become heavy with water. Make sure the layers are light enough to comfortably manipulate with a garden hoe or your hands. You should take care to not over water the layers. Pick up a handful and squeeze it. You should produce a few drops of water and not a stream. If you have too much water add more brown/green material to soak it up.

For faster results you can shred your material into smaller particles and/or add an accelerator to your pile. You may also add amendments such as, Cottonseed and, Alphapha meal in your layers as you build your pile.

Repeat the process for each of your layers until you have reached a minimum of 3 feet in height. Your pile will start to heat up overnight and will continue to do so as long as it is turned every 3-7 days and kept moist. Plunge your thermometer into you’re the center of your pile to check for temperature. You want your pile to be in the 130-150 range. This range will be needed to kill weed seeds that may be in your hot compost pile. Be careful to not let your compost pile over heat as it will kill the living organisms in your pile.

You will know when your pile is ready for harvesting when it is dark brown in color and has a sweet earthy smell. Do not put the compost on your lawn or garden when it is steaming. Let it cool off and serve it up to your plants.ShareThis

Landscaping Ideas: Worm Composting (Vermicompost)

Worm Composting (Vermicompost)

Landscape Ideas Dallas: How to start worm composting (vermicompost) by Dallas Landscape Contractor Maria Bargellini

For information on purchasing Red Wigglers (best worms ever for this) Click here.

There’s only a few types of earth worms used in indoor worm composting. This is because they do not burrow like most common earth worms but live in the top 2-6 inches of your shredded material or compost. They are susceptible to cold and hot weather which makes success unlikely outdoors. To start your worm composting you will need the following:


  • Composting bin (shallow bins are better)
  • Shredded paper (preferably newspaper)
  • Worms (Red Wrigglers)
  • Fruit (No acids like citrus)
  • Water


  • Moisten your shredded paper and place inside the container ½ – 1/3rd of the way up
  • Place your chopped fruit inside toward the middle of the paper pile
  • Scoop up your happy worms and gently introduce them to the pile. The worms will crawl into the middle to eat the fruit
  • If your new little friends start climbing the sides of your bin, fret not—they’re just letting you know it might rain.

The worm castings do not smell and look much like soil. It can be harvested when 1/3rd of the paper pile has been consumed. Worms will only reproduce if there is room in their environment to support additional worms.

If your worms stop reproducing you can separate them and either create another worm compost bin (vermicompost), or share them with a friend, or pack them up and go fishing.

Organic Composting

Organic Composting

Landscape Ideas Dallas: Organic Compost by Dallas Curb Appeal Landscape ContractorMaria Bargellini

Organic compost has to be carefully constructed with materials that have not been exposed to chemicals. Do not use lawn or plant clippings if you use synthetic fertilizers, especially if you are planning to use the compost for your vegatables.

The spring and fall seasons offer tons of great material for your compost pile but be careful when accepting “contributions” for outside sources, including animal manure.

You are what you eat and if you use manure from an animal that has been fed medications like antibiotics those same chemicals will be introduced into your compost pile.

Manure is not currently regulated by an agency. There aren’t any guidelines for handling and distribution of manure.

  • Animal Manure: Commercially raised animals may be fed growth hormones, medications, synthetically produced grains, or chemically treated grass. Unless the animal is organically raised and or you trust the source you should not use it.
  • Pets Manure: Using the manure created by meat eating pets is not a good idea for your compost pile. It can contain harmful pathogens. If you want to recycle this manure use it in trench composting or in a flower garden-never in a food producing garden
  • Humanure or (Human waste Manure): I don’t know about you but with decades of birth control and anti this and that I am not using anyone’s left over cr@@@. I don’t even know if I would use my own.

For more on Humanure click here to view and download for free, Joeseph C. Jenkins The Humanure Handbook A guide to composting human manure.

The City of Denton sells compost created using human waste. For more information on Dyno Dirt Compost by the City of Denton click here.

The only way to get the best organic compost is to maintain an organic garden and make composts yourself with materials from your own garden.ShareThis

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