trouble with decomposing compost

emsySeptember 18, 2007

Hi i am new to composting and dont know what i am doing wrong please help!!! I have had my compost bin now for 12 months but it dosnt seem to be doing anything!!!!!!!!!! It does get a bit of morning sun up until lunch time, there always seems to be white flies in there aswell. I have never turned it as it is too heavy and awkward to do.

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It's slow composting. If you want to speed up the process you need to turn it, make sure it's as wet as a damp sponge, and has a proper ratio of greens to browns to make sure it gets hot and doesn't smell. Hang out here for a while. You'll learn a lot!

    Bookmark   September 18, 2007 at 6:44AM
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kqcrna(z6 SW Oh)

Even back when I didn't turn my compost it all rotted within a year.

I suspect it's too wet or too dry, in different areas of the pile, and not getting enough air. How big is your bin? Is it covered? Is it full? Half full? Do you add to it regularly? Have you had wet weather or drought? Hot weather or moderate temperatures?

In my area the weather has been extremely hot and dry, and my compost is drying out faster than I have ever seen. As soon as it finishes a hot cycle I flip the whole thing and add moisture a little at a time as I rebuild until it's damp throughout.

If you can flip it, even once, and correct the moisture level as you rebuild the pile, it will probably speed up a lot. Also, at some point you have to stop adding to it or it will never be compost. This is why 2 bins are better than one.


    Bookmark   September 18, 2007 at 7:00AM
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The two usual reasons material piled up does not compost is the C:N ratio, Carbon to Nitrogen, is way out, just not enough Nitrogen so the bacteria that will digest that materail have no energy, or the material is too dry and the bacteria that need a moist environment cannot work.
A too wet compost pile will be digested but there will be a really unpleasant odor that accompanies that process.
The only way to correct the problem that does exist with your compost pile, and sun has nothing to do with the digestion process, is to repile it and add Nitrogen and a bit of moisture. This link to the Florida On Line Composting web site should be of some help

Here is a link that might be useful: Florida on line composting

    Bookmark   September 18, 2007 at 7:49AM
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jean001(z8aPortland, OR)

One thing you needn't be concerned about is what you think are whiteflies. They hang out on live plants. They're not in compost. So, the flying creatures may be fruit flies or other insect that helps you compost.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2007 at 2:19PM
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THANKYOU all so very much for your help and advice. THis is my first attempt at composting, We got a normal black compost bin off the council and thought we would give it a go.It has a removable lid and bit at the bottom that you can take off to get to the compost but i keep finding it comes away!!!!
My bin is half full at the moment. I dont think it is wet as i have never added any water and it dosnt smell ( well only of rotten veg lol). It is sited at the bottom of garden ontop of sand where some slabs used to be for the worms to get to it.
All i add is grass cuttings, veg scraps, used kitchen towel and cardboard tubes. I cant add any prunings as i havnt got a shredder. When i do add some on the odd occasion i do try to cut them up small.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2007 at 3:04PM
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kqcrna(z6 SW Oh)

Could you possibly flip it, just once, adding water as you rebuild? Maybe get help from someone?

It's really hard to get moisture down into the pile after it's already built up.

It's not easy to turn, but I do it with my trusty 10 tine fork. I'm a small (5'3") woman, 55 years old, with multiple health issues. Sometimes if I'm really struggling and my husband sees me out there, he feels guilty and offers to help. I'm not one to turn down help even if it's motivated by sympathy.


    Bookmark   September 18, 2007 at 3:31PM
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Another thing that can mix compost without a lot of effort is a bulb auger. It's like a giant drill bit--It's designed to make holes for planting bulbs, but I use it only for mixing compost.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2007 at 4:00PM
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Sounds exactly like the compost bin I got from my city as well. They also sold this tool that is like a long metal stick you can stick down to the bottom of the pile and some things flare out and you pull it up and it mixes the pile. I was too cheap and just use a pitchfork to mix it up a bit and it works great. Even if you don't get it mixed up completely, just some helps. OR since yours has the door at the bottom, open it up and pull some of the compost out and throw it back on top to mix it up a bit. But it also sounds like it is too dry since you are not watering it. The "wet as a wrung out sponge" term helped me to know how wet it should be.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   September 18, 2007 at 4:51PM
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o.k, sounds like a job for the weekend then or i can do it tomorow and if i can get myself organised. i have got to tidy up the garden anyway as the bin is at the bottom of the garden in a corner where i dont really like going to! it's a bit messy there with next doors conifers hanging over the fence and lots of spiders.!!!its a corner that i just cant seem to look tidy.( big sigh)

    Bookmark   September 19, 2007 at 5:27AM
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Composting inside a closed bin can be tricky. Stirring a bit will help. Even just poking some holes can let in air and moisture.

I don't think that it would be a good idea in a closed plastic bin but my usual advice to people who complain that their pile of leaves isn't composting is to tell them to have the boys pee in it.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2007 at 11:50AM
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Compost should never have, even a slightly offensive, an off odor. Rotting vegetables is an off odor that should not be present in a working compost pile, ever. Compost should only smell like good, rich earth. If it does not something is wrong and needs to be corrected. If the odor of rotting vegetables is present the compost has, probably, too much moisture since vegetables contain large amounts of water in their tissue.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2007 at 7:43AM
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