Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Feeding the Compost Pile

I recently bought a pitch fork to turn our compost pile. It makes it much easier than using a shovel. Everything decomposes fairly fast if you keep it aerated, moist and fed with new green material. Air, moisture and food keeps the microorganisms happy. If you click on the image below you can see that the stuff in the middle is already breaking down after about 4 weeks.

When the conditions are right the inside temperature of the pile is very warm - 100 - 140 degrees or so. It feels about the same as washing your hands with hot water. If the pile starts to smell bad it needs more air. The smell will go a way within about 15 minutes of getting air to any stinky spots.

When adding kitchen scraps I try to add them to a hot area and mix them in a bit. I try to get as much of the new stuff in contact with a warm area as possible. If the new material is scattered too thinly the pile isn't as likely to stay hot. Once it cools off it can be hard to get it going again.

As far as what to add or not add here are a few rules of thumb.

You should not add the following:

  • Meat - it attracts rats.
  • Cheese - see meat.
  • Salty foods - bad for your plants.
  • Tomatoes - unless you want volunteer tomato plants everywhere.
  • Weeds which have gone to seed. (If you are a composting master and can get the temp way up to 140 degrees or so the heat will kill the seeds but this is not easy )
  • I have heard you shouldn't compost wisteria because it is poisonous to the microorganisms and will slow the break down of the material greatly.
You can feel free to add, among other similar bacteria fodder:
  • Most any green material, grass, leaves, lettuce trimmings from your salad, carrot tops, etc.
  • Trimmings from vegetables.
  • Breads and pasta but not if they have a lot of salt. Salt kills plants.
  • Spoiled fruit, peels, watermelon rind, etc.
  • Egg shells are really good and help balance the ph.


  1. I love reading posts about people showing off their compost piles. Yes, I know it's sad, but it's true. :)

  2. And we admire a man that creates a blog about compost. Who doesn't? See Anthony admire the piles at: http://www.thecompostbin.com/.


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