Catastrophic Compost Problems
Compost Problems – Tips for dealing with catastrophe in your compost.
Although a vast amount of scientific research has been and is being done in the fields of domestic and commercial composting, on a domestic level at least, I do think of it as an art. It’s a bit like cooking really, at least I think so. There are those who would deny it! But, no matter how well you follow the recipe, from time to time something will just simply go wrong. A problem will arise and will have to be dealt with.
In composting, there are only a handful of indications that something is awry and that you need to deal with a problem. They include:
- Bad smells
- A pile that does not heat up
- A pile that attracts pets, flies, rodents and other unwanted animal life
- Wet and soggy compost
The following table outlines common problems and the steps to action.
|Your pile is smelly|
|A bad smell of ammonia||Too much nitrogen. Add some carbon–rich ingredients i.e. paper or cardboard.|
|A bad smell of sulphur||Possible anaerobic or meat bones or dairy products in your pile. Remove these items or bury them deep and cover with a layer of dry grass or similar. Maybe add some lime or calcium.|
|A generally nasty smell||Compost may be too wet. Add dry ingredients – paper and cardboard.|
|Compost may be lacking oxygen (anaerobic). Add air (oxygen) by turning regularly.|
|Your pile will not heat up|
|Not enough moisture||Add water – but make sure it is distributed right through the pile.|
|Not enough oxygen||Turn the pile regularly to add oxygen.|
|Not enough ‘greens’ (nitrogen)||Add some nitrogen in the form of grass clippings or activator or fertilizer.|
|The ingredients are too chunky||Chop up more finely.|
|The pile is too small||A pile should be no smaller than 3’x3’x3’. A bin can be a bit smaller.|
|The pile is moist and smells sweet but is still cold||Add some nitrogen in the form of grass clippings or fertiliser as above.|
|Your pile attracts odd visitors|
|Ants||Compost is probably too dry – make sure compost is kept damp.|
|Flies||Compost may contain meat and/or dairy products. Bury offending waste deep into compost.|
|Slugs||Probably not really a problem. If you wish remove slugs and slug eggs (like pearls) by hand. Move compost away from vegetable patch or surround with traps.|
|Rodents/Pets||Compost probably contains meat or bones – fatty material or manure. Bury waste deep and put a lid on it!|
|Fruit Flies||Harmless really but will get eaten in their turn if you partially open the lid on bin for a while allowing access to more predatory creatures!|
Those of you who have major problems with vermin and pets or with various smells – please take note of our list of unsuitable ingredients, and DO NOT ADD MEAT, BONES, DAIRY PRODUCTS, EGGS etc to your compost unless:
- you have a sealed unit
- you know that you can achieve an internal temperature of at least 150 degrees
- you are using a system like Bokashi that can deal with protein waste.