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Last Updated on:  12/16/2015 04:00 PM



 
Joy Blooms in the Garden

Joy Blooms  -- Compost It

Everything you ever wanted to know about composting:  Let's get Started   
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    FAQ     Build a Bin     What's In?     Brown & Green    
Now What?     What's went Wrong    Unusual Compost Items      Say It Ain't So     
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Last Edited on:  12/16/2015 08:07 AM


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Troubleshooting Composting Problems
When Things go Very Wrong!

In a perfect world, your pile would decay perfectly and give you rich earthy compost.   But ... it doesn't always work that way.  I am collected common problems, their possible causes and the solution to the problem.  If I have missed any, I would welcome your suggestions.  Please email me.

Problems

Possible Causes

Solution

Ammonia Odor

Excess of nitrogen or green material - grass clippings can be the culprit here

Mix in more dry (high-carbon) materials such as green twigs, wood chips, leaves, straw, shredded newspaper or plant stems. These will help to create more air voids.  Turn pile more throughly.

Attracts animals

Food scraps are not well covered

Cover all food with brown materials such as leaves, wood chips, or finished compost

Attracts animals

Meat and other animal products have been included

Keep meat and other animal products out of the pile; enclose pile in 1/4-inch hardware cloth

Bad odor

Pile too large

The pile should not exceed a height greater than 8 feet or width greater than 20 feet.  Break into several smaller piles

Bad odor

Pile too wet

Get a handful of material from inside the pile and squeeze it-if water drips out of it, the pile is too wet. Turn the pile into another bin adding thin layers of dry straw or shredded newspaper.

Bad odor

Too many greens

Add browns and mix. Turn pile and top with soil

Bad odor

Too much moisture.

Turn the pile.

Bad odor

Too much nitrogen-rich material in the pile.

Do not water as often and turn the pile to dry out the material.

Clumping or matted material

Insufficient turning causing uneven airflow or contains slowly degradable materials

Break materials into smaller chunks and turn more throughly

Decaying is taking a long time

Particles too big

Cut waste materials into small pieces. Mix in small amounts of topsoil with the materials. Adding livestock manure and bedding will also activate your pile.

Fire ants

Pile could be too dry, not hot enough, or has kitchen scraps too close to the surface.

Make sure your pile has a good mix of materials to heat up, and keep it moist enough.

Flies

Food scraps are not well covered

Cover all food with brown materials such as leaves, wood chips, or finished compost

Flies

Meat and other animal products have been included

Keep meat and other animal products out of the pile; enclose pile in 1/4-inch hardware cloth

High Pile Temperature (greater than 140 degrees Fahrenheit)

Insufficient ventilation

Turn pile

High Pile Temperature (greater than 140 degrees Fahrenheit)

Pile too large

The pile should not exceed a height greater than 8 feet or width greater than 20 feet.  Break into several smaller piles

Insects, millipedes, slugs, etc.

Part of the natural process.

It is OK to have these little creatures.  This is Not a problem.

Large, undecomposed items are still in the mix.

Raw materials contain large particles and non-degradable or slowly degradable materials

Break materials into smaller chunks and turn more throughly --  remember some items, like corn cobs, decompose more slowly -- consider burying the larger pieces at the bottom of the pile.

Low Pile Temperature

Cold weather

Insulate pile with straw or other material -- don't be concerned if your compost is not generating heat; decomposition is still occurring, but at a slower pace)

Low Pile Temperature

Lack of air circulation

Pile too big.  A 1-cubic-yard pile (3 x 3 x 3 feet) is fine, and will be easier to turn. Also be sure to add lots of coarse materials to help air circulation, or aerate your pile by turning or mixing it periodically.

Low Pile Temperature

Lack of nitrogen

Add material high in nitrogen, such as food scraps or grass clippings

Low Pile Temperature

Lacks moisture, it's too dry

Check the moisture level of the pile. It should be about as moist as a well- wrung sponge.

Low Pile Temperature

Pile too small

Increase pile size (space permitting), try insulating sides

Low Pile Temperature

Poor aeration

Turn more thoroughly - avoid thick layers of just one material because too many leaves, paper or grass clippings won't break down well.  Remember to shred larger pieces of organic material.

Matted leaves or grass clippings aren't decomposing.

Poor aeration, or lack of moisture.

 

Mosquito problems

Too wet materials - encouraging breeding

Wet raw materials stored on site more than four days

Odor - Ammonia

Excess of nitrogen or green material - grass clippings can be the culprit here

Mix in more dry (high-carbon) materials such as green twigs, wood chips, leaves, straw, shredded newspaper or plant stems. These will help to create more air voids.  Turn pile more throughly.

Odor - Bad

Pile too large

The pile should not exceed a height greater than 8 feet or width greater than 20 feet.  Break into several smaller piles. A cubic yard ( 3' x 3' x 3 x 3' is a good size.

Odor - Bad

Pile too wet

Get a handful of material from inside the pile and squeeze it-if water drips out of it, the pile is too wet. Turn the pile into another bin adding thin layers of dry straw or shredded newspaper.

Odor - Bad

Too many greens

Add browns and mix. Turn pile and top with soil

Odor - Rotten Egg Smell

Excess moisture (anaerobic)

Turn pile frequently; add dry material such as autumn leaves, woodchips, or straw; make sure bin has drainage; leave lid off to allow more air to flow

Pile does not heat up

Cold weather

Increase pile size, or insulate pile with an extra layer of material such as straw

Pile does not heat up

Lacks moisture, it's too dry

Check the moisture level of the pile. It should be about as moist as a well- wrung sponge.

Pile does not heat up

Lacks nitrogen

Add high nitrogen materials, such as fresh grass clippings or vegetable scraps.

Pile does not heat up

Pile too small

Make pile bigger or insulate sides

Pile does not heat up

Poor aeration

Turn pile more frequently

Putrid odor

Compaction

Turn pile to add oxygen

Putrid odor

Lacks oxygen

Mix up the pile so that it gets some aeration and can breathe. Add course dry materials like straw, hay or leaves to soak up excess moisture. If smell is too bad, add dry materials on top and wait until it dries out a bit before you mix the pile.

Putrid odor

Pile too wet

Spread out materials to dry or mix in dry browns such as leaves or straw.

Remains cold

Cold weather

Composting slows down when the mercury drops near or below freezing. Have patience-give the pile a turn in the spring and it should heat right up.

Remains cold

Composting nearing completion

No action required.

Remains cold

Lacks moisture, it's too dry

Check the moisture level of the pile. It should be about as moist as a well- wrung sponge.  Composting does not happened in completely dry conditions.

Remains cold

Lacks nitrogen

Add high nitrogen materials, such as fresh grass clippings or vegetable scraps.

Remains cold

Not enough nitrogen-rich materials in the pile.

Mix in fresh nitrogen-rich materials, such as grass or fruit and vegetable trimmings.

Remains cold

Pile is too small.

Your pile should be at least about 3 feet x 3 feet x 3 feet. If it is smaller than this, add more materials.

Rodents

Animal products in pile (meat, fat, eggs)

Don't put meat, fat, cheese, bones, etc in your pile.  Remove these items.  Line and cover your bin with hardware cloth to keep out pests.

Rotten Egg Odor

Compaction - not enough air (anaerobic)

Turn the pile so that it can breathe. Add top soil to top of pile

Slow composting

Materials compacted

Mix small particles with larger pieces

Slow composting

Particles too large

Reduce particle size to improve heat retention in pile

Slow composting

Pile lacks nitrogen

Mix in green materials such as grass clippings, kitchen scraps, manure

Slow composting

Pile lacks oxygen

Turn to aerate

Slow composting

Pile too dry

Water more frequently until a squeezed handful feels like a wet damp sponge.

Slow composting

Pile too small

Build larger, balanced, aerated pile

Too Wet

Poor drainage, too much rain, or a lack of air.

Move the pile to a location where there is proper drainage. Add dry leaves. Turn the pile to circulate air and remove the lid to allow evaporation.

Warm only in the middle of the pile.

Cold weather might have slowed composting

The pile naturally slows down during cold weather.  It will heat up again in warmer weather.

Warm only in the middle of the pile.

Pile is too small.

If you are only composting in piles, make sure your pile is at least 3 feet high and 3 feet wide. With a bin, the pile doesn't need to be so large.


Joy Blooms . . . Compost It!

Everything you ever wanted to know about composting:  Let's get Started   
Basic How-To    Tip & Tricks
    FAQ     Build a Bin     What's In?     Brown & Green    
Now What?     What's went Wrong    Unusual Compost Items      Say It Ain't So     



Joy Blooms . . . in the garden!

Gardening in Lubbock    Month-by-Month   Out Door Projects    Butterfly Gardens     It's for the Birds    Gardening Lessons from Daddy       
        Compost It!     Gardening Tips /Design     Veggies Anyone?    Gardening Links       Seed/Bulb Resources  My Garden Photo Albums


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