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GOOD COMPOST, GONE BAD

Composting takes time, so patience is a must. You will undoubtedly run into an issue or two along the way, but don’t give up! You will eventually be rewarded by nutrient-rich soil that you created yourself.

YOUR PILE ISN’T HEATING UP

It’s important to have all of your materials ready before you start building your pile. If you don’t have enough volume, your pile will not heat up. Most people tend to add to the pile as they go, but this approach takes more time to get the right ratio and balance of materials. It’s best to create a big batch all at once, so it can start to heat up. If you have done this and it still isn’t heating up, it’s probably too wet or too dry. If it’s too wet, turn the pile and add some dry brown materials. If it’s too dry, add some nitrogen (grass clippings tend to get it cooking) and water. You can always toss in another scoop of garden soil to introduce more microbes.

YOUR PILE REEKS

You can smell this problem from a mile away! This is a common one and easy to fix. Most likely, your pile has too much moisture or has an over-abundance of fine textured “greens”. You need to break up the smelly, anaerobic clumps and add some dry, coarse bulking materials (“browns”) and turn your pile to aerate it.

YOU HAVE UNWANTED VISITORS

Remember to keep meat, dairy and oil out of backyard composting – this is super important! These are a magnet for hungry animals. Use ¼”  wire mesh on the sides and top to keep pests out, but oxygen in or use a rodent-proof bin that is fully enclosed. ALWAYS cover your food waste when you add it to your pile. Exposed food is a perfect breeding ground for flies, fruit flies and gnats. 

YOUR PILE IS OVERHEATING

If you want to master hot composting, you need to have a thermometer. There are different phases of composting, and it’s important to understand which stage you’re in. Somewhere between day one and five, the temperature should rise, between 120℉ – 160℉. This is a great sign – your microbes are working hard and killing off pathogens and weed seeds. Above 160℉, you start to kill these beneficial organisms and you will end up with sterile material that loses its disease-fighting power. It’s best to stay below 155℉. To cool down your pile, simply turn it a few times with a pitchfork, which will allow the heat to escape.