Compost Troubleshooting Problems

Have you tried or considered trying you hand at home composting? We would love to help. Don’t let apparent problems stand between you and recycling your household organic waste. Instead, consider troubleshooting your composting problems with some solutions below.

Symptoms Problem Solutions
Compost has unpleasant odor. Not enough air due to overwatering. Not enough air due to compaction. If odor of ammonia, too much nitrogen. Add dry materials such as cornstalks, leaves, or wood chips to soak up excess water.
Turn the pile to aerate. Cover pile if rains continue. Turn the pile to aerate. Add carbon materials and turn the pile to aerate.
Pile not heating up. Pile is too small. Insufficient moisture. Not enough air. Lack of nitrogen. Compost may be finished. Make pile bigger. Add water while turning. Add water by sticking a garden hose into the center in several locations. Poke holes into the pile and add water using a watering can. Turn the pile to aerate. Mix in nitrogen materials. Add 10-10-10. Use it and start over!!!!
Compost is damp and warm only in the center. Pile is too small. Add more material.
Pile temperature exceeds 160°F. Not enough air. Lack of carbon. Turn the pile to aerate. Mix in carbon materials.
Large, undecomposed items are still in the mix. Low surface area. Remove items. Chop or shred before adding.
Rodents. Presence of meat scraps. Only add items recommended for your pile and remove offensive material. Animal-proof bin.
Compost pile has flies, earwigs, slugs and/or other insects. I find white material throughout my pile. Good! Pile is composting correctly. Insects are a sign of a productive compost pile. The white cobweb material are actinomycete, part of the microbial community. If there is an abundance of flies, bury your food scraps as you turn the pile.