Composting uses the natural breakdown of organic materials to create nutrient-rich humus for use in the garden for planting, soil amendments, topdressing and mulch. Creating a healthy compost pile requires balance in the organic materials added to the pile, which should be turned or mixed regularly. Carbon-rich, dry, brown materials, such as dried leaves, should be added to the pile in equal volume to moist, green, nitrogen-rich elements, such as grass clippings. When input materials are combined in disproportionate amounts, the composting process can be slow, become smelly or produce a poor-quality compost.
Imbalance of Input Materials
The addition of only one kind of organic material, too much of one type of material or failing to alternate layers of different organic materials is the most common problem with composting. This inequitable mix of materials creates an imbalanced biologic environment where further problems quickly develop.
Lack of Moisture
Allowing a compost pile to dry out will slow or stop the microbial activity required to make compost. This results either from adding too much dry brown material and not enough moist green material, or failing to lightly moisten the pile at regular intervals or at least when you add new material to the pile.
Lack of Turning
Creating a compost pile and then leaving it entirely untended for a long period of time results in a foul-smelling pile that takes a very long time to break down. Composting is a low-maintenance process, but is not a no-maintenance process. Compost piles should be turned once a week to every 10 days. Without turning or churning, the raw materials in the center of the pile overprocess, while the perimeter of the pile does not break down.