Composting Mistakes

Composting is an easy way to reduce waste and create nutritious soil for your plants year-round. A simple backyard compost pile can be made using scraps and materials from your kitchen and yard with items you would normally throw away, like fruit peels and grass clippings.
Such compost-appropriate materials provide nutrients that can help your garden grow lush plants and reduce landfill waste by 25%. However, there are a few mistakes that can spoil the integrity of a compost pile and create larger issues, including attracting pests, and promoting weeds and mold across your yard. Prevent these types of issues from wreaking havoc on your garden by avoiding these common composting mistakes.

Uncovered food scraps

While food scraps do add beneficial bacteria to your mix and can be a nice source of moisture, leaving food exposed can attract pests, such as raccoons, insects and rodents. And depending on the food you're using, uncovered scraps may also produce unpleasant smells. To avoid both smells and pests, it's important that food scraps are covered with materials like leaves or even dirt each time you add to your pile.



Preventing air circulation

Chopping up compost materials is necessary for the pile's decomposition process, but be cautious to not overdue it. Excessive chopping can lead to mold growth and harsh scents. To prevent this from happening make sure your pile has room for air flow to help materials in the pile decompose. For example, chopping a piece of fruit into quarters will quicken the decomposition process without blocking air pores. Putting that same fruit in a blender turns it into a wet clump that will block air circulation. Fruit and vegetable remains, leaves, and sticks should all be chopped or broken before being added to your pile. Avoid chopping plants if you have not removed the roots and seed heads. Roots and seeds can cause unwanted plants and weeds to spring up in your yard. Another way to improve circulation is occasionally turning your pile by moving the materials around and exposing covered areas. Once a month should be enough to free air pores. Monitor your pile to see if slime, smell or moisture may require more frequent turning.



Forgetting browns

Compost piles are made of green and brown materials; browns are dry materials such as straw and chopped wood, and greens are wet material that consist of items like fruit and vegetable scraps. Having a balance between the two helps ensure the pile has the correct level of moisture to decompose and prevents mold. However, a lack of brown materials can cause your pile to become too moist. Excessive moisture can slow the decomposition process and allow mold spores to form. In the summer, it may be more difficult to find browns to balance your pile, so be sure to store leaves in the fall for the summer months, if this is not an option, straw can be a good substitute.



Harmful materials

Though it may be tempting to pick up compost materials from nearby farms or neighbors, unknown sources may contain harmful bacteria or weed seeds. For example, farmers may sell or give away their excess manure, which can contain seeds from weeds that could spread across your entire lawn. Though it takes longer to build up compost from your own waste, it is best to stick with your own materials to avoid the risk.
If you do not have the time or space to create a compost pile, it may be helpful to research if your community has a compost system that will accept materials from your home.