Garden composting is a great way to turn organic waste into a valuable and very useful resource for your garden. If everything goes well you will have a great homemade garden fertilizer that will boost the health and growth of your plants like nothing else.
But sometimes things can go wrong and your compost just does not turn out right. Setting up a good pile of compost takes some skill and experience. It is like with everything else...the more you do it ...the better you will get at it.
All serious gardeners had composting problems before...us included! You can end up with a smelly mess or with stuff that just doesn't want to break down...frustrating!!!
So here are some garden composting tips to make sure that things go as planned....
1. Your pile doesn't break down
This problem can have several causes. If your heap is too dry turn it and spray every layer with your garden hose.
The other reason is not enough green materials that contain Nitrogen. Brown material like leaves or twigs can take a long time to break down. Mix in things like grass clippings, nettle, comfrey or fresh manure. If you don't have more greens at hand you can also use a well balanced organic fertilizer to increase the Nitrogen content of your heap.
2. Yuck....It's smelly!
If your heap has gone smelly it has gone anaerobic. There is not enough oxygen for the good bacteria (the aerobic ones). Your materials could be too wet or you have too much green material in it. Turn the pile and mix in more brown material and some garden soil. Check this page for a list of brown and green materials.
3. Help....I just saw a rodent in my compost heap!
Compost heaps can be cozy homes to all sorts of creatures we don't like. Mice and rats find a well-heated place for nests and often food right outside their door.
Keep cooked food waste out of your compost. These creatures are attracted by boiled potatoes, pasta, rice, meat, cheese, etc.. Turn the pile regularly to disturb their nests.
4. Oops...it's slimy!
You probably didn't do a good job with mixing your materials. If you use greens like fresh grass clippings make sure they are not in a big lump. They will go anaerobic and go smelly and slimy. Mix well with brown material like leaves, prunings or straw.
5. Oh my....it froze during the winter!
Freezing, of course, stops the breaking down of the organic matter and your heap just won't decompose. You can prevent this first of all by choosing the right spot. It should be protected from cold winds that will cool down the compost heap. Also, aim to build a large pile that produces enough heat to keep it from freezing. You can insulate the pile with a thick layer of straw.
These are the 5 most common garden composting problems we have seen and they can usually be easily fixed or prevented. If you want to learn how to produce perfect compost check out the following books: