Why is my compost full of flies?

QUESTION: Why is my compost full of flies? I was excited to start composting, but my wife is grossed out and I don’t blame her!

ANSWER: You may see flies buzzing around your compost heap because they’re attracted to the food scraps it contains, particularly if you’ve been adding a lot of fruit to your compost pile lately.

However, flies near your compost are not a cause for concern. They won’t cause any problems for the compost heap. As a matter of fact, the insects are actually helping the food scraps decompose more quickly. Once the materials that attracted the flies have been broken down, you’ll probably stop seeing the flies.

If you’re really bothered by flies around your compost pile, you can prevent them somewhat by burying fresh food scraps so they aren’t at the top of the pile where they’ll attract flies and other insects. Keep a bag of leaves or a bag of dried out grass clippings near your composter or compost pile and use some to cover up all your food scraps when you add them, and it will make a big difference.

Why does my compost smell bad?

my compost stinks

QUESTION: Why does my compost smell bad? I started composting a few months ago, and now it smells so bad that my neighbor has complained. -Lisa B.

ANSWER: Why your compost smells bad depends on the type of smell your compost bin is producing. If your compost heap smells like ammonia, that means the pile contains too much nitrogen-rich wet ingredients (also called “green” materials).

You can help things get back to normal by leaving the lid off your composting container on a warm, sunny day so the materials can dry out some. If your compost smells like ammonia, you should also add more carbon-rich ingredients (known as “brown” materials) to help get things back into balance.

Adding dried leaves is an easy way to get more carbon into your compost pile, but if you don’t have any dried leaves available, you can use shredded newspaper or cardboard instead.

If your compost heap smells like sulfur (like a rotten egg)  instead of smelling like ammonia, there are a few different factors that could be contributing to the smell. First of all, if you have been including meat, fish, grease, dairy products, or anything that contains these items to your compost pile, you should stop adding those materials, as they’re definitely contributing to the stench.

If you don’t use meat, fish, grease, or dairy, and your compost still smells rotten, it’s possible that your compost isn’t getting the oxygen it needs, causing a surplus of anaerobic microbes.

To resolve the issue, use a compost turner or a pitchfork to mix the heap up well, and add ingredients heavy in carbon (also called “brown” materials), as carbon-heavy materials will help soak up the extra moisture and aerate the pile to help resolve the smell. Incorporating some dried leaves into the mix is the easiest way to add some carbon to your compost, but if you don’t have access to dried leaves, newspaper or cardboard will do.

Are crabapples good for compost?

crabapples ready to compost

QUESTION: Are crabapples good for compost? We have a ton of them dropping all around our yard and I’m trying to figure out what to do with them all. – Joseph L

ANSWER: Crabapples can be added into compost as long as they are paired with plenty of brown, or carbon rich, material. Crabapples are a fruit, and are considered a green, nitrogen rich. Chop them into halves, quarters, or even squish them to help them break down quicker into your compost mix.

If you put too much fruit in a composter without enough brown materials to balance things out, you’ll end up with a very stinky, wet mess. You can also attract flies and vermin.

One way to get rid of a lot of nitrogen rich material is to use the trench composting method where you simply bury it. It takes longer to break down, but it won’t attract pests.

Are coffee grounds green or brown for compost?

coffee grounds composting

QUESTION: Are coffee grounds green or brown for compost?

ANSWER: This is sort of a trick question! Coffee grounds, though brown in color, are considered a green material for composting. Be sure to add plenty of brown materials to balance out the green materials that you add to your compost.

In composting, a “green” material means that it is nitrogen rich, and a “brown” material means that it is carbon rich. You need both to compost effectively at a decent speed.

Are coffee grounds compostable?

QUESTION: Are coffee grounds compostable? And what about the filters? -Rick G

ANSWER: Coffee grounds can be added to compost and are a great source of nitrogen, once broken down. Adding coffee grounds can also help increase the moisture content in your compost pile. Used coffee filters can also be added to the compost mix, because limited amounts of paper also break down over time. Keep in mind when adding coffee grounds to your compost that, even though they are brown in color, coffee grounds are considered green compost material that are rich in nitrogen, and will need to be balanced with some sort of brown compost material that is rich in carbon. If you use K-cups for making coffee, you can open up the cups and empty the grounds into your composter before you throw the cup out.