How to Fix Composting Problems: Smelly, Slimy or Slow Compost Bins

[Music] Compost is the foundation to a thriving garden. The trouble is, few of us have perfect conditions to make ideal compost every time. In this video, we’ll look at some common compost
problems, and easy ways to solve them. Perfect compost has a fine crumbly
texture, and a pleasant earthy smell like a forest
floor. The original ingredients used to make the compost will no longer be visible, having been transformed into a dark-looking, even consistency. Mature compost is gardener’s gold. Use it to mulch around plants, make potting soils, or to dig into soil to improve its nutrient content and moisture holding capacity. For instructions on how to make good compost by adding the right balance of ingredients click here to view our video on the perfect compost recipe. Few gardeners get composting right every
time. Common problems includes smelly compost
bins, slimy ingredients that have become excessively wet, or compost that has simply stopped rotting
down before it’s ready. The most common problem is excess
moisture, which causes foul odors, flies, and the
production of substances harmful to your plants. Adding too much fresh material over dry
materials is the usual culprit. Fresh material such as vegetable
peelings and grass clippings have a high water content, which makes them heavy. If too much is added to your compost heap at once it can become compacted, excluding air or
filling air spaces with water. These oxygen-starved anaerobic
conditions enable harmful microbes to thrive. If your compost heap is too wet, dig it out completely then turn the ingredients to incorporate more air before re-stacking. Fresh materials are mostly ‘greens’, which have
a high nitrogen content, so mixing in more carbon-rich ‘browns’
will help solve the problem. To do this, add dry materials into the
mix to get a balance of greens and browns, improve drainage, and prevent the compost
from clogging up again. Ingredients such as shredded prunings,
sawdust, straw and cardboard torn into smaller
pieces will create channels within the compost. These channels will allow air to percolate, and excess moisture to drain away. Scrunched-up newspaper makes a good short-term option if you haven’t got enough of these dry ingredients to hand. Grass clippings are often generated in large
batches. Don’t be tempted to add thick layers to the
compost bin just to get rid of them, or they could create a soggy mat. Instead, sprinkle grass clippings in thin layers, and balance them with drier ingredients. If you have too many clippings, lay them as a mulch around fruit trees and
bushes, or between your vegetables where they will slow down weed growth
and lock in soil moisture. Be aware that plastic compost bins let
in less air than open heaps. They require extra care to ensure a balance of
dry to fresh materials. Never stamp or force materials down in
order to fit more in or you run the risk of over-compacting your
compost ingredients and artificially stimulating anaerobic
conditions. Compost is naturally slightly acidic. but sometimes an abundance of some
wetter ingredients or naturally acidic material, such as
citrus fruit, can upset the balance. If you notice your compost heap becoming
smelly and slow to decompose, then excess acidity could be the problem. Counteract this by sprinkling handfuls of ground lime or wood ash into the mix plus plenty of browns if the bin is wet, and other fresh green material if that is lacking. This should re-balance the mix ,and
kick-start the composting process once again. If your compost bin is too dry, it will
simply stop decomposing, as the bacteria and fungi responsible for
the composting process won’t be able to work effectively. Re-wet the heap by watering it, ideally with rainwater. If you don’t
have any stored rainwater, ordinary water will do. Apply it evenly using a
watering can fitted with a rose, mixing the materials at the same time if you can. Bins with too many dry ingredients can be given a boost by adding lots of
fresh material to balance out the ingredients. Dig out the compost bin, add your fresh
materials, then refill the bin. Or, if you have two bins side by side,
mix the extra materials and water as you turn the materials from one bin into the other. Leafmold is a form of compost made
entirely from fallen leaves. Leafmold is an exception to the rule,
because it naturally takes up to 3 years to fully mature before it’s ready to
use. At this time the leaves should no longer be
visible. Mature compost can be sieved into sturdy plastic bags or garbage cans for storage. Any lumps or part-rotted
materials left behind in the sieve may be thrown back into an active compost bin to continue decomposing, helping to transfer beneficial microbes
into the next batch. Compost is an excellent soil
amendment. Apply it directly to beds and borders, fork it in or leave it on the soil
surface as a mulch. This valuable organic matter will work
gradually to improve your soil’s nutrient content and overall structure. The results is healthier plants, and better crops for you. Share your best
composting tips below by leaving a comment, or subscribe to
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78 thoughts on “How to Fix Composting Problems: Smelly, Slimy or Slow Compost Bins

  1. Really, the only way to stop compaction in a compost heap is to turn it once every couple of days. With a hot pile its always going to smell like silage for the first few days. I like to use a ratio of 50/50 nitrogen sources to carbon sources measured by volume. You only need to add a little bit of water if the nitrogen source is dry when assembling the layers. I've found the most important thing to do with a pile is to cover it with something like a tarp. It will trap in the heat an protect the pile from the elements. 

  2. After a couple of years, and that I just don't have the energy for it anymore, I got tired of and gave up keeping a compost pile.  I now simply compost in my garden.  All my veggie scraps, etc., go straight to my garden.  I just follow natures way.  It works for nature and it works for me.  My garden loves it.

    Some things I'll still put into a compost pile, such as excess grass clippings.  I found that when/if my pile begins to smell, I water, then turn it before watering it again.  It's generally a sign that it's too dry and needs to be aerated.

    I have 4×8 beds, don't dig, turn or plow.  My finger is my shovel.  Just a lazy gardener.

  3. Compost Question from a newish gardener: Can veggie plants be planted directly into finished compost ?
    Thanks for the answers !!

  4. I live at 7,200 ft with temperatures in the teens during winter.  How can I keep my compost from freezing?  Should I cover the bins?  Add more heat such as chicken manure?  Please advise as this is my first hard winter as a gardner.  Thanks!

  5. I have no idea where these slugs are coming from!  I have a raised bed, nothing around it but concrete.  I just threw them into the street, but hope they don't come back when I'm sleeping, i will definitely try the beer method from now on. Only heard good things about it!! Thx!

  6. Regarding stopping snails by using copper wire or tape – I applied copper tape completely around all 6 of my raised beds and the snails just slithered right across it and into the veggie gardens as usual. It definitely did NOT work, or even slow them down.

  7. I just end up getting so angry when I go into the garden and do lots of hard work. I've had so much misfortune in the last few years and I know that this is the root cause of why I end up getting angry after a while of heavy work in the garden which is a real shame as it's an activity I love to do. Great video by the way.

  8. Thanks for the informative video.
    My problem is not enough "greens"!
    Several days ago the city had mowed a field of grass.
    I thought about going over and collecting some for my compost bin.
    However, the grass has been in the sun for several days now, and, has lost it's green color—it looks more like hay now.
    Since the green coloration is gone, can it still be used as a "green"!??

  9. Nice video thank you. A wood working shop nearby is offering free pine & redwood sawdust/shavings. Is it possible to use these as Browns in a hit compost pile or would you need to age them first (how long)?

  10. hello, I have a compost tumbler and have noticed ask the sudden tons of tomato seedlings growing in it, any suggestions to fix this. it has cooled down tremendously here in NC so I'm sure the temperature isn't getting hot enough now to help with it cooking

  11. My compost is slimy rotten smelling and has bugs, I almost caught a heart attack yesterday I had my gas mask and gloves on, I added wood chip layers. I was not turning them, I need to move my compost to a bigger thing, ugg. What do you think about mask, methane, gloves, farmer disease gloves etc?

  12. Hello, New to composting. I'm using a plastic bucket 25 litres no holes totally covered because of flies , right now it's covered with fungus and I plan to let it sit for 8months. will it have broken down well.

  13. That dark and sweet smelling compost is what I am after so I'll go for a bigger container with air flow, thanks for the advice.

  14. I don't have access to many brown materials. Would dry ferns be a good source as it's abundant where I live.

  15. I buy a huge bag of very cheap dog food and sprinkle it over each of the layers, watering well as I build the pile. Keep the pile watered and turn frequently and the pile will heat up like magic. This tip came from the Complete Compost Gardening Guide by Barbara Pleasant and Deborah Martin. My pile heated up to 150 degrees last year.

  16. good presentation.
    question. I have maggots in my worm compost (probably from too much water). If I use hydrated lime to control any maggots will it harm my earth worms ?

  17. Hello, thank you so much for this video, very helpful! One question I can't seem to find a complete answer to, is if my compost is not right and severely rotting (way too much green) can I still try to save it by adding browns and fixing the balance, etc.? Or do I need to trash it and start over since it likely now has harmful microbes/bacteria like you mentioned? Thanks so much!

  18. After mowing, I have a layer (small clumps) of grass clippings in the yard in some spots. (we live in country and I don't care about having a perfect looking lawn — I don't pick up grass clippings except for compost) After a couple of weeks — the grass clippings are brown. If I put on a compost pile — do these count as green or brown material ?

  19. wish i knew where i could get some pallets for a decent sized compost modular bin system… sigh. Anyway guys thanks for the video. I have had to add worms to my compost bin as my patch is completely devoid of worms. I hope they turn my bin into a less mess than it is now.

  20. If my compost bin smells bad I water down a bit of sourdough starter with rain water and sprinkle it all over the pile that makes it smell much nicer!

  21. Man, we are always throwing away Amazon boxes, so I'm glad I finally have a use for them. Thanks for all the info!

  22. I have a soil mixed with rice hull, it was sitting in the roof top in a sack. now that i want to use it, it smells bad. Like a sewer. How can i fix this? thanks in advance.

  23. Hello. I was wondering if you could help me. My compost bin produces a clay-like compost. How do i rectify this? Thanks!

  24. Thank you. This is very helpful. I like hearing "don't throw too many kitchen scraps into it just to get rid of them". So tempting. I started with just leaves, but now the green stuff is piling up.

  25. I'm very new to composting. Recently when adding and mixing I've noticed mold over the top of the whole bin. Is this a bad thing? I usually just mix the dirt up after

  26. Thank you, very informational. I have seen lots of ant activity in/around my bin today. Is this a problem? When the compost is ready, I"m thinking I won't want to add those ants to my garden. Are the ants a sign of a problem with the composting process right now, or nothing to worry about?

  27. Thanks so much for the info. didnt know i can compost leaves all by themselves. You are really one of the best chanels out there on yt (gardening chanels right) although not the most popular. Wish you sucess and hope other people appreciate your videos as you do by carefully spendng our time and giving out a lot of info

  28. I used cartons as brown material, but after few weeks, when I looked at it, they are like rolled paper, will they be okay?

  29. Thanks for the great video.. How long does it take for the compost to be done usually? (considering i have a small compost bin – about 5-10 gl)

  30. So whats best……open compost heap exposed to the weather or buy a black plastic bin with lid on it?
    Same with leaf mold…… black plastic bags or open to elements in wire cage.

  31. FYI DO NOT PLACE GRASS CUTTINGS IN YOUR VEGGIE GARDEN AREA! The may contain grass and weed seeds and possibly diseases too…

  32. Is it worth letting the wet stuff (Banana skins, potato peel, etc) dry out in the sun before putting it in the compost?
    Also is the wood treated – how come it doesn't rot? My wooden compost bin lasted about 3 years.

  33. Animal products will greatly increase the speed and quality of compost! Be careful not overdo or it will smell and attract rodents. never trow away meat.. Dairy can be used too but makes sure that it's fully adsorbed or covered in fine brown materials or old compost. Old/used potting (coco choir or peatmoss) soil is great to absorb spoiled milk or greasy food scraps (oils/fats should be completely absorbed and used very sparingly into a pile, use a bit of sand too) and incorporate into compost.

  34. I have an abundance of oak leaves in my compost mixed with grass clippings and kitchen scraps, but I also have availability of unlimited amounts of fresh cow manure right off the barn floor. What would be your recommendation for a ratio of fresh manure to oak leaves to grass clippings to kitchen scraps to build a good compost bin. Can I expect to have good compost in 5 months ? I live in the NE US

  35. I always keep it balance. I don't include citrus peels anymore cause it will make my compost too acidic. I'm glad that I am doing the right compost by watching your very informative video, thanks

  36. My tiny little compost heap smelled terrible, was wet and yucky, with maggots, because I never worked it. I turned it for a few minutes, added lots of dried leaves and inside of 2 hours, the smell disappeared. It broke up finely and darkly when I worked it and started to look like real compost. I will certainly watch it closer. Thanks for your help!

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