stinky compost

Y'all already know that I suck at gardening (yet still, I persevere, either because hope springs eternal or because I'm really dense, or both). This afternoon I went out to our garden plot to water the neglected cucumber and melon vines. I also pulled out the failed tomatoes and (sob) peppers, and planted fall arugula in their place. Is arugula hard to grow? We're going to find out in a few weeks.

Right now, though, it's our compost pile that requires most urgent attention. We used to have an open compost pile. Eventually, we put a fence around it to help the leaves etc stay compact and ostensibly to keep animals out. Of course, squirrels and raccoons and other vermin are perfectly capable of climbing over a little old fence, so fence or no fence, our compost pile was like an all-night all-you-can-eat buffet for the local wildlife. After constantly finding chewed up corn cobs and bits of stale bread around the yard and on the driveway, we got a fancy-pants compost bin when the city was selling them last May (or was it 2 years ago? I don't remember) for 40 bucks apiece (normally they cost over $100). This, we thought, would be the solution to all our composting problems. The bin is made of heavy-duty black plastic with a well-fitting lid and plenty of air vents on the top and sides, as well as a little door on the bottom for scooping out all that lovely fresh-made dirt. The composter would get nice and hot to break everything down while keeping the animals out. Perfect, right?

Not so much. The stuff we put in there is breaking down, all right, but it's wet and slimy and wormy (not earth worms, mind you, the nasty kind that like slime and grow up to be fruit flies) and smells horrible. As in, it smells like baby poo, or doggie diarrhea or something. Sorry, I know that's graphic, but it just about makes me gag, and I generally have a pretty high tolerance for this sort of thing. For the last year we've just been hoping that piling more grass and leaves and dry stuff in there will help, but so far, it hasn't. It's just as disgusting as ever. This evening, Stuart and I decided to Deal With It. Which means we removed the black plastic bin and left the smelly slimy pile (topped with grass and cantaloupe rinds) out in the open for all to see (and smell!) It's going to be hot and sunny the next few days, the last gasp of summer I suppose, so my hope is that the nasty, bad compost will air out and dry out and turn into nice, crumbly good compost that I can feed to my sorry excuse for the garden out front. And then what? I guess we'll go back to the fence made of chicken wire and just accept that critters are going to get in there for nibbles. That's got to be better than what we've got now.


Anonymous said…
On "ask this old house" they have made compost piles for fall leaves by making a cage with wire fencing, then filling it with the raked leaves. A year or so later they have great black compost. A pile starting 5 feet high compacts to about a foot. Great stuff, or so they say.

Our "black box" in the back yard has had ugly smells and lots of "bugs" or "worms" in it in the past. Right now a lot of things that fly do fly when the lid is removed. It's a "hold your nose, open lid, quickly dump the contents from the compost pail into the black box, quickly close the lid, and run" event.

Speaking of lid. It is warped. Doesn't fit very well. It no longer rises properly as it doesn't fit on the "hinges".

There was a time when compost material was just dumped way in the back of the back yard, and then eventually covered with leaves, or something. (I no longer use grass clippings as the grass catcher "died" and I no long collect clippings.)

Right now what is offensive are all the apples dropping from the tree in the front yard. A sickening sweet smell. A pain to mow over, so I don't mow there. Some are hard enough to cause a misstep and turn an ankle, while others are soft and leave ugly stuff on the bottom of one's shoes.

Enough farming news.

canadahauntsme said…
Everyone I know who keeps compost in a bin has the same problem as you. Really, the best solution is to just pile it up outside lime you did before and I guess are doing now again. As for vermin, I try to avoid putting bread in compost piles as it attracts raccoons. Corn might still be an issue though. Best of luck!
Animal said…
Hmm…good to read this, as we bought this same composter (at the same kind of sale), and haven't yet used it. Maybe now, we WON'T.
Suze said…
animal, our next door neighbors have the same problem, and I've noticed them just leave the lid off on dry days. That probably helps.

Popular Posts