Composting

Compost-ology
Troubleshooting Compost Piles
Symptom Possible Cause Possible Solution/Alternative
Compost pile is damp and warm in the middle, but nowhere else. The pile may be too small. Gather enough materials to form a pile 3 ft. x 3 ft. x 3 ft. and/or insulate the sides and cover the top.
Compost pile isn't heating up. If it seems damp and sweet-smelling, there may be a lack of oxygen. Mix in fresh grass clippings, manure, blood meal or other material high in nitrogen. If it is difficult to turn the pile, create holes in the pile and add the nitrogen-rich material.
  Not enough oxygen. Turn or fluff the pile.
  Cold weather. Increase pile size and/or insulate it with straw or plastic cover.
  The pile may be too small.

Gather enough material to form a 3 ft. x 3 ft. x 3 ft. and/or insulate the sides and cover the top.

  Pile was built over several months. Don't worry about it. Let pile compost "cold." Check for finished compost.
  Compost may be finished. If it looks dark and crumbly and smells earthy (not moldy or rotten), it may be done. Use it!
The pile is dry throughout. Lack of water. Turn the compost pile and add water. Moisten new materials before adding to the pile. if the pile is out in the open, considder covering with straw or plastic cover. The pile should be damp as a wrung-out sponge throughout.
Matted, undecomposed layers of leaves or grass clippings. Compaction,
poor aeration.
Break up layers with garden fork, or shred them, then relayer the pile. Avoid adding heavy layers of leaves, grass clippings, hay or paper unless first shredded.
Large, undecomposed items. Size and composition of materials. Screen out undecomposed items, reduce size if necessary and use in a new pile.
Compost pile has a bad odor like a mixture of rancid butter, vinegar and rotten eggs. Not enough oxygen, too wet. Turn the pile and add coarse, dry materials such as leaves to soak up excess moisture. Protect the pile from rain using a plastic film or other cover.
  Not enough oxygen, compacted Turn the pile and shake materials apart to aerate.
Compost pile has a bad odor like ammonia. Pile may have too much nitrogen. Add materials high in carbon such as shredded leaves and aerate.
Compost pile contains fire ants. Lack of water. Turn the pile and add water. In order to keep fire ants out of the pile, pour molasses powder around the perimeter of the pile.
Compost pile contains earwigs, slugs and/or other insects. Pile is composting correctly. Insects are a good sign of a productive pile. Note: slugs live happily in compost piles. If the pile is next to a garden, barriers can be placed between the pile and nearby garden with traps, metal flashing, etc.