5 Composting Mistakes You May Be Making - Backyard Boss
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5 Composting Mistakes You May Be Making

Is composting something you want to do but haven’t gotten around to yet? Or, have you already started but aren’t seeing the results you expected? You’re not alone!

Besides putting the wrong things into your compost bins, there are a few other typical mistakes people tend to make when composting, which can slow down or even stop the process.

That’s why today we want to share with you the five most common oversights and teach you how to avoid them.

Not Aerating Your Compost Pile Enough

Woman emptying kitchen waste on to a compost pile with layers of organic matter and soil
Image credit: Jasmine Sahin via Shutterstock

Not aerating your compost pile enough can lead to several problems. The most common one is that the compost will start to smell bad. It is because the bacteria that break down the organic matter in the compost need oxygen to do their job. If there isn’t enough oxygen, they’ll start to produce methane, which is a very smelly gas.

If you don’t aerate your compost it will start to compact. It can make it difficult for water and air to penetrate the compost, which can lead to anaerobic conditions (lack of oxygen). These conditions can cause the compost to heat up, which can kill beneficial bacteria and cause unpleasant odors.

To avoid these problems, make sure to aerate your compost pile regularly. A good rule of thumb is to turn it over every three to seven days. This will help keep the oxygen levels up, preventing these issues.

Turning the compost pile also has another benefit. It evenly distributes moisture and nutrients. If you have a layer of wet compost at the bottom of the pile, turning it over will help dry it out so that it doesn’t become anaerobic. Similarly, if the top layer of the pile is getting too dry, turning it over will help moisten it.

So, remember: if you want your compost pile to stay healthy and happy, make sure to aerate it regularly!

Adding Too Much Green Material

gardener's hands in gardening gloves are sorting through compost heap with humus, in backyard. Recycling natural product waste into compost heap to improve soil fertility. Processing agricultural wast
Image credit: larisa Stefanjuk via Shutterstock

Green material, like grass clippings and leaves, is essential to successful composting. But adding too much of it at once can cause your compost to turn slimy.

This is because green materials are high in moisture and can start to decompose before they have a chance to dry out. When this happens, the compost can become anaerobic and produce smelly, slimy bacteria.

The key to avoiding this problem is to add green material in layers, alternating with dry brown material, like straw or wood chips. This will help keep the compost from getting too wet and prevent it from turning slimy.

If you end up with a slimy compost heap, don’t worry! Just turn it over and mix in some dry brown material. The compost will eventually dry out, and the sliminess will go away.

Not Adding Enough Brown Material

Pile of fall leaves with fan rake on lawn
Image credit: Elena Elisseeva via Shutterstock

One of the most important ingredients in a healthy compost pile is brown material. Brown materials are items like dead leaves, twigs, and branches. They provide essential carbon for the microbes that break down organic matter. Without enough brown material, your compost will be slimy and smelly.

So, how much brown material should you add? A rule of thumb is to mix two parts of of green material (like grass clippings or vegetable scraps) with one part of brown material. However, if your compost is too wet or smells bad, you may need to add more brown material.

If you’re not sure how to tell if your compost needs more brown features, here are a few signs to look for:

  • The bottom of your compost pile is soggy or soupy.
  • There’s a lot of green material on your pile but very little brown material.
  • Your compost smells bad.

If you see any of these signs, it’s time to add more things to your pile. The best way to do this is to layer it in between layers of green material. This will help aerate the pile and keep it from getting too wet.

Don’t have any brown material on hand? You can usually find it in your yard or neighborhood. Fallen leaves, dead plants, and even small twigs and branches are all great additions to your compost pile. Just make sure they’re not treated with chemicals before you add them in.

Adding Animal Products

Earthworms in green vermicomposter, hidden in dirt, making compost
Image credit: Novakovav via Shutterstock

You may have heard that adding animal products to your compost can help it break down faster and provide more nutrients for your plants. However, there are some good reasons why you should avoid adding them.

One reason is that animal products attract pests and more critters to your compost pile. This is because they contain high levels of protein, which is a food source for many creatures. While you may not mind a few extra animals around your compost, they can wreak havoc on your garden if they get out of control. In addition, animal products can also attract disease-carrying insects to your compost pile.

Another reason to avoid adding animal products to your compost is that they can make the compost itself smell bad. This is because as the animal products break down, they release foul-smelling gases. Not only is this unpleasant for you and your family, but it can also deter beneficial creatures like worms from hanging around your compost.

So, what should you add to your compost if you want to avoid attracting pests, animals, and diseases? Stick with plant-based materials! Leaves, grass clippings, and fruit and vegetable scraps are great additions to your compost. Not only will they break down quickly and provide plenty of nutrients for your plants, but they won’t attract any unwanted guests to your compost pile.

Adding Chemical Products

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Image credit: Prostock-studio via Shutterstock

One of the most important things you can do for your compost is to avoid adding chemical products. Chemicals can kill beneficial bacteria and other organisms that help decompose organic matter. They can make your compost less effective as a fertilizer and soil amendment.

There are a few chemicals you should never add to your compost:

  • Bleach – Bleach contains chlorine, which can kill the helpful bacteria in your compost. It will also make your compost smell bad.
  • Antibacterial soap – Soap can kill both the good and bad bacteria in your compost. You should only use natural, non-toxic soap if you need to wash something before adding it to your compost.
  • Pesticides – Pesticides can kill the helpful insects and other organisms in your compost.
  • Herbicides – Herbicides can kill the beneficial plants in your compost.

If you’re not sure whether a chemical product is safe for your compost, it’s best to err on the side of caution and avoid adding it. Your compost will be healthier and more effective without it.

Happy Composting!

We hope this article has helped you figure out how to compost like a pro! If you have any tips or tricks, please share them in the comments below. And if you’re looking for more information on composting – or any other green topics – be sure to check out our other blogs. We’ve got tons of great content waiting for you.

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