5 Common composting problems and how to easily fix them: Shady Gum

Do you want a thriving garden?

Have you tried composting (also known as ‘gardeners’ gold’)?

You can use compost to mulch around plants, make potting soils or add to the soil to improve its nutrient content and moisture-holding capacity. Ultimately, if done right, composting can help you create the garden of your dreams!

Perfect compost is a dark-looking organic matter with an even consistency, a nice crumbly texture and a pleasant, earthy smell. Many people try to make their own compost but they often run into problems.

Below are the 5 most common composting problems that gardeners often face along with our suggested solutions.

If you’d rather buy compost, come to Shady Gum, your favourite Cragieburn nursery. We can help you find what you need!

Common composting problems and solutions

  1. Compost is too wet and/or smelly

Wet compost can cause foul odours, attract flies or other pestilential insects, and even produce substances that may be harmful to your plants. You may have added too much fresh material instead of a balanced mix of fresh and dry materials which may result in a lack of air or too much moisture.

Solution: If your compost is too wet, turn the pile to add air and dry out. Add dry materials like wood chips, leaves or straw to increase air space, improve drainage and prevent the compost from clogging up again.

  1. Compost is too slow to decompose

This may happen if there is an over-abundance of some ‘wetter’ or over-acidic ingredients, or if the proper carbon to nitrogen ratio (browns to greens) is not maintained. Both these issues can upset the compost’s balance and slow its decomposition rate. Inadequate aeration or incorrect temperature control can also be the culprit.

Solution: Counteract the acidity by sprinkling handfuls of ground lime or wood ash into the mix. If the bin is wet, add plenty of ‘browns’ (carbon-rich materials). Keep compost ingredients smaller and add other fresh, green material to kick-start the decomposition process.

  1. Compost is not getting hot (i.e. it’s doing nothing)

This is a very common problem. If the compost is too dry, it will stop decomposing and doing what it’s supposed to do – provide nutrition to your plants.

Solution: Check if your pile is too small or if it contains enough moisture. Turn the pile while adding water until a handful when squeezed contains beads of water. If your compost bin has too many dry materials, dig it out, add fresh materials and then refill.

  1. Compost is attracting bugs

A compost pile may attract a lot of bugs, typically flies. This is fairly normal but there are things you can do to minimise the problem.

Solution: Turn the pile from the outside toward the inside so it heats up. Keep the pile moist enough so that beads of water can be seen when you squeeze a handful. You can also add ingredients like sawdust or straw to create channels within the compost that allow air to percolate and excess moisture to drain away. This may also keep the flies away.

  1. Compost attracts animals

If your compost pile attracts rats or other animal pests (a problem no matter which way you look at it), you may have food sources close to the surface.

Solution: Make sure you bury all food waste between several inches of carbon (browns) material. Don’t add any ingredients like oil, fat, dairy, bones or meat that may give off an aroma and lay out a welcome mat for unwelcome wildlife.

Don’t worry if you feel overwhelmed by all this information. It’s not impossible to make good compost as long as you add the right balance of ingredients, maintain them well and manage all essential factors such as surface area, aeration, moisture, temperature, etc. If you still have questions about composting, drop into your friendly neighbourhood Cragieburn nursery – Shady Gum. Our experts will be happy to answer all your questions.

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