Troubleshooting your compost shouldn’t take too long and soon you’ll be creating your own garden black gold. Composting isn’t terribly difficult but sometimes you just hit a hiccup; these tips should help you find your issue and correct it. Whether you’re composting in a fancy composter, a pile or a converted garbage can – troubleshooting your compost is pretty much the same.
So find your issue in the list, and the use the solution to get things back on track. I’ve learned these the hard way, I hope you don’t have to!
Troubleshooting Your Compost
Issue One – Stinky Compost
Well the first question I’d ask is what does it smell like?
- Ammonia – this is probably caused by too much nitrogen in your pile. Give your pile a good turning and add more brown material to it.
- Rotten – Your pile need oxygen! Give int a turn. If you use garbage cans, like me, then try using a compost aerator. I personally use a small piece of rebar (like this guy).
- Make sure you aren’t watering your compost too much – damp, not wet.
Issue Two – Dry Compost
This is one of the biggest issues I faced as a new composter. I live in the desert…dry is common here.
- Give your compost water regularly, especially in the warmer months.
- Don’t let it dry out or those beautiful microorganisms will die off and your compost will become glorified garbage. If you get heats like we do in Phoenix, it may need to be watered daily.
Issue Three – Not Breaking Down
- If your pile isn’t too dry or too wet and it still isn’t breaking down then you may have too much brown material and not enough green.
- Try adding some rabbit poo, fresh grass clippings, and your fruit/veggie waste from the kitchen. These will add some nitrogen to the compost.
Issue Four – No Heat
- I’m assuming you’ve looked at all the above issues/fixes and you’re still not getting any heat. Meaning your pile is not too saturated, it has a good balance of greens and browns, and it is getting plenty of air…
- A compost pile needs to about about 135-160 degrees Fahrenheit. You can get a nifty compost thermometer to check that.
- Your issue could be size – a small compost pile just doesn’t have enough material to cook. So add more good stuff and keep it moist.
Issue Five – Maggots, Flies and Other Creepy Critters
Just to have complete honesty here… Someone recently left the lid off one of my compost bins. I put it back on as soon as I discovered it; and didn’t give it a second thought. Well I went to dump my kitchen compost into and was greeted by a swarm of flies. Nasty, but it happens to the best of us.
- Keep your compost covered. Unless you live on a large piece of land and don’t mind creepers getting in there. I have been composting for awhile and I’ve only had 1 roach and that aforementioned fly assault; because my bins are closed.
- Make sure you’re not adding materials that attract the nasty (meat, dairy products).
- If they are coming from below you may need to add some wire mesh to the bottom of your bin.
Issue Six – Too Chunky
- If you let it “cook” enough time, and that’s not the issue then you may simply need to sift your compost. You can buy a handy dandy compost sifter to help with that job. Or if you like a DIY project you could build your own.
- Make sure you are putting big sticks in your compost – they’ll take forever to break down, if they ever do.
Don’t worry, troubleshooting your compost isn’t going to take up all your time. Once you get into the groove, it won’t seem so needy. And there is just nothing better to grow gorgeous tomatoes in!
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