Composting problems and the solution

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Welcome! Here you find the best compost recipe to avoid Composting Problems. Composting, in technical terms, is the process of decomposing organic materials into simpler organic and inorganic compounds by microorganisms. Plainly said, it’s nature’s way of recycling.  

Three bins for: Compost, Waste and Recycle
@splashabout from Unsplash

 

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, compost is:

“To collect and store plant material so it can decay and be added to soil to improve its quality

According to the Oxford Learner’s dictionary, compost is:

“A mixture of decayed (= destroyed by natural processes) plants, food, etc. that can be added to soil to help plants grow”

There are a lot of definitions about compost, although they are all correct definitions, they are not entirely thorough and you may be missing some important information that you should know as a user or producer.

What is Compost? How can I start?

A simple answer to a simple question can be: compost is an organic regenerator of soils that needs organic matter to develop and maintain bacterial life. This organic regenerator helps plants grow healthier since it fertilizes and adds nutrients to the soil.

After explaining this, it can be said that it is fertilizer but an organic one. Compost and fertilizer are two terms that are generally confused but they aren’t the same thing. Both have the same objective of nurturing the soil, but the main difference is that the fertilizer is artificial and the compost is organic, which means their origin is natural.

What can I add to my Compost?

You don’t need too much to start composting since almost anything that was once alive can be composted. Every single natural element on this planet will perish, decompose and disintegrate into the soil, thus, making an incredible fertilizing contribution. 

The first thing you’ll need to know about compost at its basic level is that any compost requires a mixture of Greens and Browns.

🟢 Greens such as grass, leaves, and even food scraps are organic materials with a high percentage of nitrogen.

  •  Vegetable scraps 
  • Any kind of dairy or plant-based spoiled milk. 
  • Cooked pasta, rice, or oatmeal 
  • Coffee grounds 
  • Stale bread or crackers 
  • Herbs and spices that have grown old
  • Avocado or any other fruit pit 
  • Spoiled jams or jellies 
  • Stale beer and wine 
  • Crushed eggshells 
Vegatables and a Compost Bin
@lenkamou from Unsplash

🟤 Browns such as paper, wood chips, or stalks are rich in carbon since they come from wood.

  • Coffee filters 
  • Utilized paper napkins and paper towels 
  • Shredded paper bags 
  • Crumbs 
  • Pizza crusts 
  • Cardboard boxes 
  • Peanut shells 
  • Wine corks 
  • Toothpicks 
  • Used facial tissues 
  • Hair 
  • Shredded paper toilet 
  • Condoms that are 100% latex 
  • Cotton balls (only pure cotton!) 
Autumn Leaves on the floor
@hlcasan from Unsplash

This mixture of greens and browns together with the right percentage of them is what is known as the compost ratio. You’ll get to know a lot about this in your process, but the recommended compost ratio estimates 3 parts of “browns” to 1 part of “greens”.

Both materials need to be soaking wet so that they start to break down into humus – a very rich natural soil fertilizer. Under natural conditions, humus will be ready after a couple of months. 

    Which can be the Main Composting Problems:

  •   Too Dry

If your compost is just too dry, it might be asking for some extra moisture, which you can manually add by pouring in some water. But be careful! You don’t want to overdo it… add in small amounts to balance out the moisture levels in your compost, until you can squeeze it in your hand without water seeping out, but also without it being dusty or crumbly. 

  •  Too Wet

This is one of the most common composting problems. The stickiness and odors are frequent composting problems and they usually refer to an excess of moisture. Take into account that composting needs oxygen flow to help the aerobic process, which means you may need to up the ratio of brown, dry elements you’re adding to your compost pile.

Another factor could be that most composting bins have lids to help maintain the right temperature, as well as keep the usual odors at bay. In case your compost is outdoors (either a compost bin or a compost pile), and you’re in a hotter season (summer, spring), consider leaving the lid off to avoid having too high temperatures.

Smelling Compost

The process of composting is already a fairly smelly business by nature. A rotten smell indicates that anaerobic microbes are starting to proliferate and generate hydrogen sulfide, which smells like rotten eggs.

To face this composting problem and help the aerobic microbes to get back to work, take the same steps we explained in the paragraph before for wet compost.

PH Problems

The goal in the composting process is to achieve compost with a fairly neutral pH since these are the best conditions for the plants that you can later help grow. Composting means that bacteria and fungi are at work to decompose the organic matter, and these will be the most effective when pH levels in your site, pile, or bin range between 6 and 7.

That being said, pH levels will also vary depending on if you’ve just started with the process or if you’re several weeks or months in

Bugs/ Flies in my compost

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot that can be done once you find maggots in your compost. However, you can take some precautions to avoid them from appearing. One of them is to make sure to cover your layer of organic matter (nitrogen-rich elements) with elements that are high in carbon which will help to curb the chances of an infestation.

It Is taking too long to Decompose

It is not on the list of most common composting problems, but here you have some elements to consider that might be slowing your composting down:

  •  The size of your composting: A larger compost bin or compost pile retains heat better; so, you might be working with a smaller setup and it will take longer to create the optimal conditions for everything to decompose correctly.
  • The material of your bin: Plastic also retains heat better than a wooden bin. 
  • What you’re tossing into your compost: be aware that different elements will take different times to break down completely. (One way to speed up the process is adding in smaller and finer elements that will decompose faster) 

Mushrooms growing in my compost, is one of the Composting Problems?

If mushrooms are growing in your compost, it means that organic materials are breaking down. So, it is not one of the Composting Problems. The presence of mushrooms on your compost is a good sign. Keep calm and don’t worry. Their presence only means that they are transforming the organic waste to turn it into rich soil.

Mushrooms growing on compost
@phongnguyen96 from Unsplash

What does the presence of mushrooms mean? Do I have to worry? What are the different types of mold I can find in my compost and why?

Does the presence of mold mean that mushrooms are growing in my compost? The presence of mold is, most of the time, a good sign. Molds are a type of fungus, their presence is very common while composting and it means full decomposition (microbes are doing their job).

If you want to learn more about mushrooms growing in your compost bin, I suggest reading: Mushrooms Growing In My Compost Bin? Good or Bad? Should I Worry?

There are 3 main varieties and their color depend on the food they’re “eating” and on weather conditions:

  • Green Mold: finding this one in your compost can be very common.it is a sign that it’s too moist, so you can use it as a good indicator that you need to add more dry material.
  • Yellow Mold: it is a kind of fluffy or spongy-looking mold. Slime molds like this one work to break down your compost and are normal and harmless.
  • Pink Mold: Warning! This is the one you should avoid. You’ll find pink mold if you throw cleaning products in your compost. Be careful: cleaning substances might kill the organisms working in the decomposition process.
  • White Mold: white mold in your hot compost pile means decomposition is going on very well! This kind of mold feeds from wood particles and this organism is also responsible for the earthy smell of healthy soils.

You can read more about Mushrooms, Fungus, and Mold here: Tree Fungus Treatment: The Complete Guide in 2021

Types of Composting

Let’s talk about different processes you can choose from:

  • Vermiculture

Vermiculture is probably the type of composting that first came to mind when reading this article – the one that uses squiggly friends to break down organic waste. 

The process of vermiculture is known as the conscious growing of worms in a particular kind of structure. 

This process may be used for different purposes but if you’re trying to produce compost, you should know that it is not any kind of worm that we want to grow. If you’re trying to do vermicomposting, you need to grow red wiggler worms. This type of worms are the best at doing their jobs: they decompose waste and plants and then turn them into organic and truly nutrient compost to enhance the plant growing in your garden.

Compost soil with worms, on two hands
@sippakorn-yamkasikorn from Pexels

Bokashi Composting

Bokashi is a Japanese word equivalent to fermented organic matter. It has quickly become a widely known option since it allows all food scraps to be decomposed and turned into compost in only 10-12 days (Although this is a good option for the anxious ones, you’ll need  some extra dollars to spend on the Bokashi bucket and bran.)

How does this process work? In this process, food scraps are mixed with inoculated Bokashi bran, pressed into the Bokashi bucket, covered with another handful of bran, and tightly covered.

Bokashi Compost Bin
@garethwilley from Pexels

Direct (or onsite) Composting

This style is an easy, cheap, and fast option chosen by many gardeners. In this type of direct composting, you pile many elements on top of each other and allow for the aerobic decomposition process to take place. 

Direct Compost
@markusspiske from Unsplash

All in all, It can be said that composting provides a host of benefits. It is a true trash to treasure process: through composting, the amount of trash in landfills is significantly reduced.

Besides, it also enriches the soil with nutrients, which reduces the need for fertilizers and pesticides. It also prevents and suppresses plant diseases and pests and last but not least, several studies have shown that plants grow more rapidly in soil supplemented with compost, meaning they can pull more carbon dioxide out of the air.

What are you waiting to start composting?

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