Problems With Compost Bins

Problems With Compost Bins

By making compost, you can obtain a free source of organic fertilizer, eliminate transport cost, and reduce waste. What could possibly be the problem with this? Actually, there can be a few problems with compost bins, but these problems fall into just a few basic categories and can be easily resolved.

Bad Smells

Fear of bad smells probably prevents more gardeners from starting compost bins than any other concern, and smelly compost bins do exist. The causes include excess water, incorrect materials, or an incorrect balance of materials. Excess water can be dealt with by aerating the compost. Give it a good stir, add some dry leaves or shredded newspaper or spread it out to dry. Lift the lid of your compost bin in dry weather and cover it during rain. The problem of incorrect materials is easy to prevent, but hard to fix. Do not put meat, fat, bones or whole eggs in your compost. (Egg shells are fine.) The final cause of bad smelling compost is imbalance. Good compost occurs with a mix of brown and green materials. Green materials such as kitchen scraps and grass trimmings are high in nitrogen. This is good, but too much green in your mix can lead to anaerobic (smelly) bacteria. Add more brown materials, such as shredded newspaper or leaves.

Pest Problems

Compost bins are full of life, so the occasional pest problem is not too much of a surprise. The first step is to determine whether or not the pests are truly a problem. Ants are not generally welcome. They will not cause any problems with your compost, but they are an indication that your compost bin is too dry. Add water and stir the compost to encourage the ants to move on. Fruit flies are attracted to fruit. You can add fruit to your compost bin in small quantities if you keep the bin covered. Larger pests, such as mice and raccoons, can be more of a problem. Try sealing off the compost bin with a locking lid or using a rotating compost bin.

Slow (or no) Composting Action

Unlike the previous problems, the problem of slow composting action is not immediately obvious. Composting typically takes two to three months, however times can vary enormously. A compost pile composed entirely of brown leaves can take up to two years to compost. If time is not a problem, you can always let your pile cook. However, there are several ways to speed up your compost making. Stir your compost often in order to keep the various materials well-combined. (Rotating compost bins use this method and some claim to have compost ready in as little as two weeks.) You can also speed up the composting action by chopping the compost materials into smaller pieces. Try to keep your ratio of brown to green materials as close to 50/50 as possible. Another way to juice up your compost is to either borrow some compost from an existing compost bin or purchase a commercial compost booster. Either of these methods will help to give your compost bacteria that have proven themselves at the art of composting.

About this Author

Jenn Mercer is a Writer, Poet, and Translator (French > English) living in Raleigh, NC. She has Bachelors degrees in both English (Creative Writing) and French from NC State University. Mercer has been published in the Grapevine, Astropoetica, Talkin Blues, Nth Degree, the CATI Quarterly, The Fix, and Uncle John's Bathroom Reader for Kids.