QUESTION: How do I heat up my compost pile? Nothing really seems to be happening and I’m getting impatient. – Stella R
ANSWER: A properly maintained compost pile will reach temperatures of 130 degrees F or hotter, effectively killing all weed seeds, insects and disease pathogens in the process. Making your compost hot requires a good balance of brown, carbon producing materials, and green, nitrogen producing materials.
ANSWER: You may have seen bread and bread products listed as a type of ingredient that you should not include in composting, but with a few precautions, bread products are safe for composting.
The only concern with bread products, and the reason they land on those lists of things not to compost, is that they can attract rodents and other pest animals to your composting area. In order to compost bread products without also bringing in a crowd of wildlife, just tuck the bread down into the compost pile so that it’s not sitting right on top of the heap.
If your compost container has a lid, close the lid as well for good measure. As long as the bread is covered by other compost ingredients, it shouldn’t attract pests. Bread and bread products count as a nitrogen-rich “green” composting ingredient. Do not include any bread in your compost pile that also contains meat, dairy products (like cheese), fish, or grease (so no buttered bread).
ANSWER: Composting is an aerobic operation, meaning air circulation is a necessary component in every compost bin to ensure proper decomposition. Having air in your compost bin is not simply dependent on air holes, however.
In fact, the presence of air in your compost bin is much more dependent on the mix of materials in your bin and the structure of the materials mixed together in your bin than the presence of air holes in the composting container. For this reason, drilling air holes in your compost bin is not necessary as long as the structure allows proper air flow.
By adding crumpled paper, twigs, and cardboard, you ensure that your pile will have ample airflow due to the space in between ingredients within the pile. If the mixture of materials within your pile is too compact, holes in the bin will not be sufficient enough to facilitate proper air flow to the center of the pile where it is needed most. Having lots of holes in your compost bin can also allow air to escape the container, as well as releasing valuable moisture.
Parchment paper is safe for composting and is a source of carbon for your compost pile (a brown ingredient), but there are a few types of parchment paper tour should not include in compost. We’ve listed types of parchment paper that should be thrown away in the trash instead of using it in compost below.
Fluorescent colors of parchment paper
Glossy parchment paper
Parchment paper used in cooking that is contaminated with residue from fish, meat, grease, or dairy products
Parchment paper that has been printed with metallic foil
QUESTION: What should you do if your compost pile is too stinky?
ANSWER: What you should do to handle bad smells coming from your compost depends on the type of smell the compost bin is producing.
An ammonia-like scent means your compost has too much wet, nitrogen-heavy “green” materials. You can help matters by leaving the lid off your compost bin on a warm, sunny day so that the sun can help things dry out a bit.
If leaving the lid off doesn’t do the trick, instead you can take the compost out of its container and spread it out in a thin layer that will dry faster. You should also mix in some dry, carbon-rich “brown” ingredients like dried leaves, shredded cardboard, or newspaper.
If the compost bin smells sulfuric, like a rotten egg, there are several potential reasons. First, have you been adding meat, fish, dairy products, or grease to your compost? If so, you should stop using these ingredients immediately, as they can cause unpleasant smells and also attract pests.
If a sulfur smell is occurring and you haven’t been adding meat, fish, dairy, or grease, then the compost pile isn’t getting enough oxygen, leading to an excess of microbes. You should turn the compost well to aerate it. Also take the opportunity to add in more dry carbon-rich “brown” ingredients like shredded newspaper, leaves, or cardboard.