Composting is one of the best ways to naturally enrich your garden soil. But it can also be tricky.
Luckily, there are a few tips you can follow to ensure your compost pile doesn’t smell or attract pests. Read on to learn more!
1. Keep it simple.
When it comes to composting, it’s best to keep it simple. The most basic tip is to make sure your pile has a healthy balance of nitrogen and carbon.
This means mixing browns and greens, such as leaves and shredded paper with grass clippings and food scraps. It also means blending in soil from your garden to boost the decomposition process.
2. Keep it moist.
When composting, moisture is essential for the process. It helps the pile decompose quickly and can also prevent odors.
You can test the moisture level in your compost pile by squeezing it. Ideally it should be moist like a damp sponge, not waterlogged or soggy.
3. Keep it shady.
It’s important to keep your compost bin in a shady spot for the best results. This will help it decompose faster.
It also helps prevent rodents and other creatures from taking a liking to the materials in your bin, which can be a major pain! To be safe, try to choose an area with a little bit of shade all year long.
4. Keep it turned.
When composting, it’s often helpful to “turn” the pile (a process sometimes called aerating). This involves mixing ingredients and breaking down compacted material.
Turning also helps redistribute non-depleted materials, improving aeration and oxygen supply and ensuring even decomposition throughout the pile.
Green material contains nitrogen-rich materials like grass clippings and vegetable peelings, which attract a fast-acting population of microorganisms to help break down the material.
5. Keep it nitrogen-rich.
Keeping it nitrogen-rich when composting means adding a mix of green materials (fresh grass clippings, kitchen scraps) and brown materials (dry leaves, hay). This ensures that the microorganisms have enough nitrogen to keep their bodies healthy.
Nitrogen is a necessary compound for all living things, so microorganisms need a balance of carbon and nitrogen foods. The C:N ratio should be 30:1.
6. Keep it carbon-rich.
Composting materials need to contain both carbon and nitrogen in order for the microorganisms to start their work. The ratio should be 30:1 (carbon to nitrogen).
Aerate your compost pile with dry, carbon-rich materials, such as shredded paper, straw and sawdust. These help speed up moisture reduction and eliminate odors.
7. Keep it aerobic.
When composting, you want to make sure your pile is aerobic, which means that it has enough air to decompose. That air is important for the microorganisms that will break down your food scraps.
A compost pile should feel damp and be somewhere between 30 – 70% moisture, with 50-60% considered ideal.
8. Keep it cool.
A compost pile must have the right temperature to break down the materials and keep disease organisms at bay. The ideal temperature range is 122 to 160 Fahrenheit degrees, according to the University of Illinois Extension.
The temperature is a function of the size of the pile, air and moisture levels. A combination of these factors could keep a pile from getting hot enough to make the best compost.
9. Keep it dry.
Dry materials like wood shavings and leaves provide carbon-rich additions that help balance out nitrogen-rich foods scraps. They also allow oxygen and water to circulate throughout the compost pile, which is key to aerating your pile and reducing odors.
Your compost pile should feel moist to the touch but not soggy. The proper moisture level makes it possible for aerobic bacteria to break down the materials, while allowing them to escape to the outside.
10. Keep it nitrogen-rich.
Composting microorganisms require a balance of carbon and nitrogen to thrive. When this is off, decomposition slows down and smelly compost piles develop.
Keep the C:N ratio between 25 and 30 parts carbon for each part nitrogen by weight. Green materials, like dried leaves and grass clippings, add nitrogen.