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back to: outdoor compostingTroubleshooting Outdoor Composting

rotten egg odor
ammonium odor
slow decomposition
low pile temperature
high pile temperature
unwanted pests

compost science
indoor composting
other ways to recycle food scraps




Rotten Egg Odor

Excess moisture and not enough air (anaerobic conditions.)

Turn pile frequently; add dry Brown material such as autumn leaves, woodchips, newspaper, or straw. Make sure bin drains properly; leave lid off to allow more air to flow.

Ammonium Odor

Too much green, high-nitrogen material (such as food scraps, grass clippings.)

Add Brown, high-carbon material such as autumn leaves, woodchips, shredded newspaper, or straw.

Slow Decomposition

Lack of moisture.

Add water while turning pile.

Lack of air.

Turn pile; add aeration tubes.

Lack of nitrogen; too much brown, high-carbon material.

Add material high in nitrogen, such as food scraps or grass clippings.

Low Pile Temperature

(If you have a small pile, or if it is very cold out, don't be concerned if your compost is not generating heat; decomposition is still occurring, but at a slower pace.)

Pile too small.

Increase pile size (space permitting.)

Insufficient moisture.

Add water while turning pile.

Poor aeration.

Turn pile; add aeration tubes.

Lack of nitrogen.

Add more greens ( material high in nitrogen), such as food scraps or grass clippings.

Cold weather.

Increase pile size, or insulate pile with straw or other material.

High Pile Temperature (over 140°F, 60°C)

Pile too large.

Reduce pile size.

Insufficient ventilation.

Turn pile.

Unwanted Pests

Wrong materials in the pile.

Avoid meat, dairy, and fatty foods.

Food scraps are exposed.

Make sure food is well covered.

Bin isn't rodent-resistant.

Make bins more rodent resistant by adding hardware cloth to areas where animals are getting through. Add a screening barrier vertically 6 to 8 inches into the ground; keep pile moist; turn pile more often to increase temperature and disturb nesting.

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