Troubleshooting Compost

We all learn how to compost by making mistakes. A person crazily passionate about making compost at home (like me) makes even more. You will have issues with your first few composting piles. I guarantee. The bright side is, unlike some teenagers experimenting nuclear fusion at home, if you got some issues with the pile, it won't explode or causing too much damages. 

The most common issues of composting pile: smelly, seeing maggots and pile cooking too slowly... 


The principle  of human evolution is : when there is an issue, there is a solution. 

Just take it easy and inspect the problems, finding solutions by using this chart : 

ProblemPossible CauseSolution
Unpleasant odor from pileLack of oxygen due to compaction
(Rotten Egg odor)
Aerate pile
Not enough oxygen due to overwateringAdd carbon-rich ingredients to soak up excess water
Ammonia odor caused by too much nitrogenAdd carbon-rich ingredients and aerate
Pile is cold (<20℃)Not enough moisturePoke holes into the pile with a rod and pour water down the holes gently.
Not enough oxygenAerate pile
Insufficient NitrogenAdd more
nitrogen-rich ingredients
Pile is too small to insulate itselfAdd more ingredients in the ratio of 3:1 (carbon : nitrogen) in volume
Compost may be finished, if it looks dark and fluffy and smells earthy.Use it
Lots of Flies, Maggots1. Heat up the pile with the solutions listed above
2. Bury food scraps deep within the pile
Lots of BugsComposting is taking placeNormal, your pile is working properly
presence of Mouse or RatCompost pile is warm and rich of food for themRemove meat, dairy, fish scraps from your compost for it attracts them

In my personal experiences, the worst thing I ever had for running composting piles is seeing maggots and flies. Not a few but a lot of them! The quick fix is to turn the pile. By turning you can aerate the pile, which may bring in more oxygen, increasing the activities of bacteria and also heat up the pile. Turning can also bury the food scraps deep within the pile, too.  

Carbon and nitrogen ratio (CN ratio)  is more important than beginners can imagine. If you start with the right CN ratio, you probably won't have many issues later. 

The right CN ratio is to boost the population of bacteria. Always sort ingredients into two categories, Carbon-rich and Nitrogen rich ingredients and mix them with the ratio 3: 1 en volume. The science behind is : Carbon gives bacteria energy and nitrogen builds their cell for their reproduction. If you have too much carbon and too little nitrogen, there will be too little bacteria working in the pile, the pile goes slowly.  If you have too much nitrogen and too little carbon, bacteria can reproduce but no energy supply for them to work through your pile. You pile will go slowly too. The excessive nitrogen will also make the pile smell like rotten egg, that's the ammonium. 


Compost Vectors by Vecteezy