Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Composting - when things go wrong

However experienced you are at composting you will sometimes have problems. Smelly compost is usually a symptom of an anaerobic mix, probable caused by not enough air getting inside the pile. This often happens when you have too much of one kind of ingredient - such as leaves or cut grass - or may indicate lack of turning of the heap.  To solve the problem you need to demolish your smelly heap. Before you rebuild the pile, it’s best to improve access of air and water to the heap.

An unwanted visitor
One excellent way of doing this is by making a compost chimney. To make this you buy – or recycle - a plastic down-pipe which you cut to a little larger than the height of your heap. Score large holes with an electric drill at regular distance along the pipe – every 10cm is ideal – and place at the centre of the new heap. Holding the pipe upright with one hand, slowly rebuild the heap making sure that the green material is well mixed. If the old pile was too wet add some dry materials such as Lucerne hay or shredded paper. When the heap is rebuilt continue as you would for a new compost pile. The compost chimney should stand proud of the pile and will allow air and water to get to the centre of the heap. By sticking the hose into the top of the chimney will allow water to get to the core of the pile. This idea has become very popular with home gardeners in recent years and makes better and faster compost with little expense. While one compost chimney is sufficient for a small moulded compost bin, two or three will be more efficient in larger heaps.

While it’s hard to deter foraging rats and mice, it can become a real problem when they decide to nest in your heap. Rodents living in the bin indicate that you have provided not only a reliable food source but a well drained warm home. The best way of getting rid of these creatures is by regularly working the heap with a garden fork and applying human urine to deter them. Rodents love cereals, so their presence can indicate that you – or someone else in your home – are putting bread and other cereals in the compost bin.

The most common pests associated with compost heaps are flies. You have to put up with some flying insects being near your heap as they are attracted to this nutrient rich environment. One way to reduce the problem is to keep your pile covered. For the smaller bins use an old hessian or plastic sack over the heap and close the plastic lid. For larger heaps it’s best to cover the heap with a piece of large weighted down plastic. This will deter flies, warm the heap and protect the pile from excess rain.

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