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Troubleshooting the Compost Pile

Although composting is an easy thing to do. Some problems can arise. The following is a list of common problems and their solutions.

  • The compost seems to be giving off a foul odor! A bad odor is a sure sign that the compost is not getting enough oxygen. The anaerobic bacteria is at work. The key is to get the aerobic bacteria some oxygen. Turning the pile more frequently will do the trick.
  • A smell of ammonia is coming off the compost pile. This is an indication that there is too much nitrogen in the soil. Nitrogen comes largely from the green matter that has been put in. Try putting more high-carbon materials in the pile like dried leaves, garbage, or sawdust.
  • The compost bin is not heating up and working during cold weather. This could be a result of a lack of nitrogen in the pile. Adding freshly cut green plants will help.
  • There is a swarm of flies on top of the pile. It is very likely that table scraps are being used. Cover the pile with a thin layer (1 inch) of dirt or some organic material not likely to attract flies. Do not use pet or human manure.
  • The compost pile is attracting rodents, raccoons or other vermin. This can also be the result of using table scraps in the compost. Try not to include any meat or dairy products. Secure the pile from rodents with cage wire, bins, or some other barrier. Do not use poisons.
  • Grass clippings do not seem to be breaking down. Grass clippings in a thick layer will take a very long time to decompose. Add other types of garden and kitchen waste and mix in with the clippings.
  • The pile is beginning to rot! Rotting is caused by the compost pile being too moist. Protect the pile from over-water by not watering too much when turning the pile, or protecting the pile from the elements by putting a layer of grass or leaves on top of the pile to facilitate run-off. Too little water can be handled by adding water to the pile when it is being periodically turned.

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