Composting 103: Problem solving

Turning the pile may solve the problem

Susan Levi-Goerlich, a University of Maryland Extension Master Gardener and a member of the Howard County Master Gardener Compost Education Committee, answers questions about solving composting problems.

Why isn’t my compost pile shrinking?

Susan: It may not contain enough green, nitrogen-rich materials, it may be too dry, or it may need more air (oxygen). Add green materials, such as grass clippings. Add some water with your hose. Turn the pile with a turning fork to add air. It’s also possible that ingredients in the pile are too big and need to be chopped or shredded.

Why does my pile smell?

Susan: Either the pile has too many nitrogen-rich materials, or it is too wet or compressed and has gone anaerobic. Turn the pile to add oxygen and add some dry “browns,” such as shredded leaves.

Will critters be attracted to my pile?

Susan: Earthworms, centipedes, millipedes, sowbugs, pillbugs, ants, spiders, maggots, mites, and microbes (bacteria, protozoa, fungi, and actinomycetes) all live in a compost pile and work to produce your compost. Less desirable critters should not be attracted to your compost pile as long as you do not add any meat, dairy products, fats, or oils. Burying any food scraps as you add them is additional insurance.

Additional Information: To link to the University of Maryland Extension’s brochure, “Backyard Composting,” CLICK HERE.

To link to the 2-page Howard County Master Gardener fact sheet on composting, CLICK HERE.

To link to the schedule and locations of composting demonstrations by Howard County Master Gardeners, CLICK HERE.

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