Mistakes Making Compost

compost bins

Another wet and rainy day and all I can think about is the compost heap (well may be not all).
We all slip up, drop clangers and get it wrong so I thought I would list some of my own compost errors or lash-ups.

Gardening can be like that so I try not to beat myself up when things go wrong. There is always another season and a worse clanger elsewhere.

Soggy Compost Mistakes

  • An over wet compost heap will smell something rotten, really stink and I mean badly.
  • Nutrients will be washed out at the bottom of the heap and lost.
  • The composting process will be slowed almost to a stop.
  • I wish I had covered my heap before all this heavy rain.
  • Good compost needs air so it may help to turn and drain the wet heap.
  • Belatedly I have been putting some torn up newspaper in the heap as roughage and to soak up some excess fluids.
  • Because this time I have built the heap on soil I can reclaim some of the goodness by taking a level of soil when I spread the compost.

Construction Mistakes

  • In the past I have relied on a heap with no sides just a pile. This flattens out and spreads without ever getting to a good heat except perhaps in the center
  • As you may see from the picture below some wood has rotted. You need to use tanalised or treated wood to prevent the structure from rotting.
  • A plastic bin where ‘you can draw clean compost from the bottom whilst refilling at the top’ was an unmitigated, uncomposted disaster but I may not have followed the rules
  • For the first time I have two discrete piles. For too many years I made do and mended with one. Now I wish I had three piles – ho hum!
  • Compost heaped on a concrete base is easy to work, turn and collect for spreading.
  • Leave room for your barrow so you can unload and reload comfortably
  • Do not build too near your neighbors kitchen window or cover your own air grates (mistakes I have previously made).

Compost Content Mistakes

  • I do not put meat products on the heap but last winter a family of rats made a nest in the warm pile
  • For several years I did not compost rhubarb leaves as I heard they were toxic. Of course they rot down and are quite safe.
  • Everyone must have tried to compost too much of the same vegetation and I have had too many grass mowings in a dry clump or a wet mess more times than I should mention. I now try to aerate the pile or turn it over regularly.
  • Leaves from trees take longer to rot, contain less nutrients and are better in a leaf pile or punctured plastic bag. Twigs need to be shredded or cut very small.
  • Seeds from weeds and plants including fox gloves and forget-me-nots do not rot they survive
  • After the mistake of too much water do not forget a dry heap will not rot either – you need some damp or add water when very dry.

wet-heap-july

Compost Mistake Elimination

  • Good compost starts with a range of good materials from a mixture of green plants and shredded brown matter.
  • Fungi and creepy crawlies breakdown the material and they need air and moisture to do their best
  • Heat helps kill pathogens and unwanted seed so keep a lid on a good sized pile and insulate the sides.
  • Turn the pile for even rotting as this stops the edges rotting more slowly

4 Responses to Mistakes Making Compost

  1. Sylvia July 11, 2008 at 16.03 #

    The only way to use the plastic darlik type is as soon as one gets full and empty it in to an another bin, let this rot a bit more and repeat the process. The trouble with this method is the empty one blows away if we have any wind, like last weekend! I put stones on it but it doesn’t help. The idea of using the hatch at the bottom doesn’t work in my experience, it is easier to lift the whole thing off. I am trying one of those 3 feet square plastic linkabord bins but I can’t reach the bottom, or the back from the hatch. I keep putting the ‘stuff’ in but don’t know how I am going to get it out!

    Best wishes Sylvia (England)

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