7 Most Common Asked Questions on Composting

7 Most Common Asked Questions on Composting

by Patty Rose, Contract Educator at the CSWM Comox Valley Compost Education Centre

What if I have flies in my composter! 

The reason for this is because nitrogen rich kitchen scraps are being tossed into the composter without a layer of carbon material.  Always cover your kitchen scraps with the same volume of carbon rich material and this problem will go away. In fact, if you have flies in your composter right now, simply cover them well and within 24 hours the problem will go away.

My composter is too dry! 

If watering your compost isn’t the solution to this problem it may be that you have too much woody material in your composter.  Remember to cut up large pieces of woody material as small as you can before you add it into the composter.  The woody stuff is allowing too much air into the pile, hence it is drying out!  To correct this, turn the pile well and add nitrogen to the mix such as kitchen scraps, fresh grass clippings, or similar material.  Water this well and in the coming months try to chop up the woody material while aerating the pile.

My Compost is damp and smells sweet, but won’t heat up! 

Trusting that eventually it will decompose is not good enough if you’re looking forward to using your compost the following spring.  Add a nitrogen rich material to your sweet smelling compost and mix it well.

My compost smells like rotten eggs! 

Assuming you haven’t put eggs in your compost, the problem here is that you don’t have enough air in your pile and it’s too wet.  Add in straw or dried leaves to soak up the excess moisture and turn the pile.  Remember to aerate on a regular basis and keep your pile only as damp as a wrung out sponge.

Am I making ammonia?  ‘Cause that’s what my compost smells like! 

The ammonia smell is from too much nitrogen such as grass clippings.  Don’t worry about this one; we’ve all been there at some point in the spring when our grass gets out of control.  Add a carbon material. It will be a bit hard to mix since the nitrogen material is likely wet and clumped together, but you will be pleased with the results once it’s done.

Only the inside of my compost pile is warm! 

Heat comes from the centre of the compost pile. To insure that the entire pile gets composted at the same rate all you have to do is continue to aerate.  While turning, try to move the centre of the pile to the sides and the sides to the centre.

The neighbor’s dog is in my compost!  And, so are the mice! 

If this is your problem then you’ve forgotten the two basic rules of composting: No meat, dairy, fish or cooked foods in the composter – that’s rule number one.  Rule number two is if you are going to use your composter for kitchen scraps use a rodent resistant composter, keep your composter out in the open, away from wood piles and not tucked up against the fence.  Cover fruit and veggie scraps with a carbon material or bury it inside the compost.  Also, work your compost regularly to show the unwanted guests that you have a work in progress here and that they are not invited.

These are the top 7 questions of composting problems.  If you don’t have these problems and have lots of worms in your composter then you are doing very well.  A prime indication that you are composting well is the measure of how many worms you have in your compost. Lots of worms?  You’re doing great.  No worms?  Then you may want to examine your composting techniques.  Either way as long as you’re happy then the earth is happy.

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