Fish Guts in My Compost Bin

mjvaldez69May 12, 2008

I went fishing on Saturday and I decided to throw the fish guts into my enclosed compost bin. Did I make a big mistake by doing this? Right now, all I have in the bin is straw, brown leaves, a few grass clipping and some kitchen waste.

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joepyeweed(5b IL)

No. I toss fish bits in my pile once in awhile. Make sure you have lots of browns and it should decay fairly quickly.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2008 at 3:06PM
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paulns(NS zone 6a)

Fish guts, combined with the sort of carbon material you have, are one of the best, fastest-decomposing nitrogen sources around, in my experience.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2008 at 6:22PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Same here - cleaned fish parts are a regular component of our compost piles.

Dave

    Bookmark   May 12, 2008 at 6:41PM
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annpat(5-Maine)

I should be so lucky. If it were me, I'd be burying them under my peppers.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2008 at 8:39PM
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careyj(7 Southern Maryland)

They would go really nice with the crab shells I put in my pile last night!

Carey

    Bookmark   May 12, 2008 at 9:19PM
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polly_il(z5/6 IL)

I tell you - all this gloating and bragging is really getting to me. Fish guts in the compost pile, indeed. Keep pushing, and I'm going to have to stop and pick up road kill or something!

;)

    Bookmark   May 13, 2008 at 4:45AM
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annpat(5-Maine)

I'm a little bitter myself. I once got buckets of fish parts from the local fish market and put them into a bin with very little other material. I went up to my garden one morning and was horrified by a macabre sight. There were about 20 huge Haddock heads trying to get out of the wire bins, and I think I screamed out loud when I saw them. Evidently a raccoon had tried to haul the fish out of my bin and they got stuck coming through the wire---all nose first.

If you do put fish parts in your garden, don't use your shovel. You'll distribute the fish smell in other places and may find some critter has torn your garden up looking for the source.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2008 at 7:49AM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

Raccoons are the reason that we don't put fish parts in the garden anymore.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2008 at 10:27AM
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the_virginian(Zone 7 NoVA)

If you cover the fish parts with enough browns and greens and put them deep in the pile that has a cover, it will be no problem. Fish parts go away very quickly and I use them from time to time including shrimp tails and crab shells. These take a bit longer to disappear, but they do with no ill effects. Just make sure they are well covered in the pile!

    Bookmark   May 13, 2008 at 10:48AM
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robertz6

Fish parts are one of my favorite ingredients.

1) They go into the core (center) of a 130F+ compost pile.
If rain is expected, the pile is covered, since my piles are no more than 18" high, to make it easier on my back when turning.

My dog takes no interest in compost piles containing fish. The fish parts (mainly bluegill or parts) dissolve within 10 days.

If the fish are available in planting time, I put a couple of bluegill about 12-15" down, with dry compost just above and below.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2008 at 4:19PM
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annpat(5-Maine)

I think joepye might have had problems with raccoons digging up the fish she buried in her garden. I've never had a problem after I learned not to get fish guts on my shovel. I dig a hole, pop the fish in, and plant. The year I shoveled the fish parts in, I had big trouble.

If you grow peppers in pots, do plant a fish under them. They LOVE that!

    Bookmark   May 13, 2008 at 6:15PM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

So the key is to leave any fishy smell on top of the soil... I may have to try that...

    Bookmark   May 14, 2008 at 10:19AM
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annpat(5-Maine)

No. no. no. Bury all the fish, smell and all. Do not let a single particle of soil or shovel above the 14" mark get tainted by fish smell. It's like you're burying nuclear waste. I bet this turns out to be a double post.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2008 at 4:59PM
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nutmeghill(6)

I use any fish parts I get by burying them deeply into the center of an large hot pile and making sure there are a lot of leaves on top. All of my piles are open, I don't use any kind of containers.

There hasn't been any critter problems, and even my trio of guard cats have not shown any interest.

As for annpat, you certainly have a whole lots of rules up there in Maine regarding compost...I guess we're a little more easy going in Southern New England ;-)

PJ

    Bookmark   May 14, 2008 at 6:46PM
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annpat(5-Maine)

Really? Other than not composting bread and burying fish below the raccoon olfactory level, what else?

    Bookmark   May 14, 2008 at 9:28PM
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annpat(5-Maine)

The reason I'm so careful when burying fish in my garden (I don't worry about it in the compost.) is because the first year I buried fish, something tore up my whole garden looking for it. I always assumed that was because the smell was distributed widespread by my smelly shovel.

I've never had any problems since that one time, it's true.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2008 at 7:24AM
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nutmeghill(6)

annpat:

I understand the issue about soggy bread, New Englanders are supposed to be "quirky" and all that. My stomach may be stronger than yours, at least where bread is concerned, but don't get me started about putting dead voles and moles into compost....my hand is starting to shake as I try and type ;-)

Anyway, I became a little worried when you started writing "Do not let a single particle of soil or shovel above the 14" mark get tainted by fish smell. It's like you're burying nuclear waste." Just seemed to be a little too quirky maybe? Just a little odd for a New Englander, but there are regional differences of course.

Well, just to show there are no hard feelings, I'll be sending you a gallon of my finest compost (vole free of course) for your certification.

Sincerely,

PJ

    Bookmark   May 15, 2008 at 8:17AM
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annpat(5-Maine)

PJ, are you kidding? Hard feelings! None. I adore everybody named PJ!

So? You'll need my address, dear?

    Bookmark   May 15, 2008 at 9:09AM
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nutmeghill(6)

Annpat:

Oh yes, as soon as I get your address, IÂll be sure to put the compost in the mail. IÂll even send it with a return receipt, so IÂll know exactly when it gets to your certification facility. I assume the certification process will not take too long and IÂll soon be getting a very pretty, glittering certificate in the mail. I canÂt wait!

As for the fish parts, I think the best way to deal with them is throwing them into a hot compost pile. If you really want to bury them in the garden, not only should you bury them in a deep trench, but add a good 6-12 inches of soil on top.

ThatÂs how a next store neighbor of mine did it, and he never had animal problems. He used a three row method: the first row was for plants, the second to walk on and the third to bury his refuse. Not only did he dig a deep trench to bury the scraps, but he would dig out from his walking path more soil to throw on top. This way as the scraps were consumed and the soil settled, he would still have good coverage from critters.

My family would supply him with fish all summer long (mainly blue fish and flounder), and he and his wife put all of their kitchen waste into their garden. They didnÂt have critter problems but had the most beautiful, lush garden I have ever seen.

Happy Composting,

PJ

    Bookmark   May 15, 2008 at 6:27PM
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madmagic(dtown Toronto)

"I assume the certification process will not take too long..."

Not in geologpaleontological time, no. Not long at all. Mere aeons.

All the best,
-Patrick

    Bookmark   May 15, 2008 at 7:04PM
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sara_the_brit_z6_ct

~oh, snort~

(Hi Patrick!)

    Bookmark   May 22, 2008 at 2:14PM
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quillsd

Man fish guts work great, just dig a hole and put them in. I've done this since I was a kid, easy way to get rid of the smell and made the plants grow like crazy. Just spread them around the garden. I usually went a good 3 shovelfulls and dumped them in.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2009 at 10:39PM
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artbyelihu_live_com

The Native American tribes of oklahoma used to bury a whole
fish in the ground under their (corn? I believe) seeds. My 74 yr old father in law is both Chickasaw and Kiowa. We will be trying this idea out this year.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2011 at 5:40PM
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