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Problems with Composting

The biggest problem is getting a compost heap to heat up: see the sections on making compost and compost bin construction. Make sure your enclosure allows oxygen to get in. Rebuild your pile if you need to, and build it around perforated drain pipe. Turn frequently. Make sure it's not too wet. If all else fails, prepare to anaerobically compost. Save yourself some hard labour.

Too wet, a compost pile degenerates into a soggy anaerobic heap. Make sure that the pile has adequate drainage. Cover the pile, turn it over, and cut it with lots of straw, corn stalks and husks, and some heavy nitrogen-containing material as activator. Too dry, one simply waters.

Steps can be taken to ensure that the compost heap does not smell bad. Rapid rotters, such as over-ripe tomatoes, should be finely chopped and mixed well into the pile. If need be, use a hoe, from a distance. Urine-laden manure can waft great clouds of ammonia toward the kitchen window. Work in a decent amount of absorbent materials like sawdust or straw, and make sure you have assembled enough biomass for a good, quick, aerobic brew. And finally, avoid animal and dairy products.

Some weeds may still inadvertently survive; make sure you compost aerobically, and measure your heap temperature if needed. 'Volunteers' can sometimes also be found in the heap, cantaloupes and avocados, gourd, tomatoes and daffodils, sometimes after relatively harsh winters.

Herbicide-treated materials have posed some concern. Most chemical toxins are broken down to various degrees by proper aerobic composting, and what remains is typically less bioavailable, and won't be absorbed by young growing plants. But if in doubt, leave it out.

Finally: animal visitors may be discouraged by bins with lids, though more may be required to thwart a raccoon's nimble fingers. Locks may be required. Consider keeping the heap near the house, both for easy access, and to discourage scavengers. Keep animal products off the pile!

Planting dense and thorny roses around the compost pile is of debatable assistance at best, but certainly will improve the looks of your pile, and the roses won't mind.

Garbage bin composter

Topics Referenced

Making Compost

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