Author Topic: How do I avoid moldy compost?  (Read 8693 times)

Offline Josh the Aspie

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Re: How do I avoid moldy compost?
« Reply #30 on: May 17, 2012, 02:40:28 AM »
Also, folks, thanks for all the links!

As for checking the bait shops, do you think they'd know the difference between the different kinds of worms?

If I make an under-the-sink bin, what do you guys think of the idea of including nightcrawlers in the compost as well, to break the compost down further?

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Re: How do I avoid moldy compost?
« Reply #31 on: May 17, 2012, 05:01:27 AM »
...If I make an under-the-sink bin, what do you guys think of the idea of including nightcrawlers in the compost as well, to break the compost down further?
Just so you know, I'm not a certified composting technician so take my words as you will but you definetaly want red "wigger" worms for your indoor vermiculture.  Unless you are trying to really do this all on the very cheap, I'd consider buying a vermiculture system.  Here is a link to Amazon and their collection as a reference point. http://www.amazon.com/s/?ie=UTF8&keywords=can+o+worms+composter&tag=googhydr-20&index=aps&hvadid=7297244129&hvpos=1t2&hvexid=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=879967283245249068&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=b&ref=pd_sl_2gnoa2y16n_b These systems and worms can be found from several sources on the web and possibly even locally at garden centers.

I've never heard of someone successfully composting inside a kitchen in a small container.  Too many variables that can't really be controlled but vermiculturing, that's possible and actually quite easy.   But if you can figure it out that would be awesome and should be blogged about for sure.   The vermiculture systems are kinda expensive but for roughly $100 you won't be worrying about smell, rot, and the like and not only will you produce great worm castings and fertilizer you will also have quite a nice conversation piece.  Heck, paint it up and call it a piece of art.

All the best with what ever approach you take.

Offline Roundabouts

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Re: How do I avoid moldy compost?
« Reply #32 on: May 17, 2012, 08:00:20 AM »
Also, folks, thanks for all the links!

As for checking the bait shops, do you think they'd know the difference between the different kinds of worms?

If I make an under-the-sink bin, what do you guys think of the idea of including nightcrawlers in the compost as well, to break the compost down further?

You are Welcome.  I am guessing you have not watched that lecture yet or you wouldn't be asking that question.  Seriously it will answer all your question and you can get up and running with worms in no time. 

http://mediasite.online.ncsu.edu/online/Viewer/?peid=ed5c695a835f435197db7f5f33bd733c1d

Regular earth worms you get from out side will not work.  You will end up with dead worms.  Some of Those worms are deep vertical burrowing worms.  Red wigglers are shallow horizontal burrowing.  You wont be able to tell which kind is which  Eisenia fetida = red wigglers you will need 1 pound of worms to get started which is about 1000 of the little buggers.  If you buy them in a bait shop it ends up being expensive because you need 1000 worms to get started.  Also you may not get the right species. They will eat about 50% of their body weight per day. Temps need to be between 59-77F for happiest worms if they get below 32 or above 100 they can die.   The happier they are the more they eat and faster they reproduce.
Moisture needs to be about 80% regular compost should be about 60%.  if you pick up bedding and squeeze no more than a  drop or two should come out.  Oxygen requirement Aerobicity cut holes in your bins up top They don't like light ph if you wanted to check it should be more than >5 and less than <9   Ammonia content of waste should be low Salt content of waste should be low. 

If the worms are happy they eat a lot and reproduce faster.  When they get stressed they group up ball up and then try to get out of the bin.  Acidity is the main thing to watch for so you would not want to add citrus or chicken manure or any highly acidic or salty food.  You can feed them kitchen scraps & plate scrapings coffee grounds animal manure agricultural crop residues yard trimmings scrap paper organic byproducts from industries sewage sludge.  They will eat any thing that is organic from clothing to poo .  The smaller the bits the faster and easier it is for them to eat it.

Suitable Earthworm species for Vermicomposting
Temperate species
Eisenia fetida (red wiggler)
Eisenia andrei ( Red Tiger)
Eisenia hortensis/Dendrobaena veneta (European Nightcrawler)

Tropical species
Perionyx excavatus (blue worm)
Edrilus eugenae (African Nightcrawler)

The most common we use here in the states is Eisenia fetida or the common name Red Wiggler

My bin I made is just a rubbermaid type container that was under $6.00. Drilled /cut four 1 inch hole along the side at the top.  Added bedding then added the worms. The pound of worms was about $22.  If the worms are happy they wont try to get out.  Again if you do it correctly it wont stink and you won't get any liquid out of it.  So you most likely can get started for under $35. 

You can put your bins any where that the temps can be maintained.  kitchen apartment balcony garage office the list is endless. 

What you remove from your bins is a combination castings and compost.  Castings are worm poo but there will be large undigested matter that is called worm  compost.

    If you watch the video there is a few min of the class housekeeping before Rhonda's lecture starts.  I have never found any info that was so complete and to the point.  Easy to follow and she has good pics with her slides.    I am sure there are other ways and advice.   This is simple and works for me.  Just thought I would share what I learned and how I do it. Hope that helps at least someone.

Oh to make the bedding you can shred paper Junk mail works great.  Or just rip it up into small pieces.  Soak in a bucket to wet completely.  Then drain and wring out with your hands.  Break it apart after wringing and try to fluff it back up.  Then add in a few handfuls of soil mix lightly add worms.   You really don't want to use more than 40% compost in your garden After adding that much your crops can start to have a undesirable  effects.  Adding 10% -40% ideal The best growth you will see is by adding 10-20%.



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Offline Josh the Aspie

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Re: How do I avoid moldy compost?
« Reply #33 on: May 17, 2012, 09:19:16 AM »
I have watched the video.  That is why I was concerned over the advice to get my worms from a bait shop.

To clarify, I was not asking if I should replace he wrigglers with nightcrawlers, but whether or not I should supplement with the African nightcrawlers since I will be composting inside, and one of the worm sale points that was linked in this thread highly recommended that I supplement with the night-crawlers for a two-stage composting action that broke the compost down further than the red wrigglers would get them on their own.

I figured people here have more experience than I do seeing through composting BS than I do, so it'd be a good idea to discuss the areas where the seller and the lecturer disagreed before deciding that one was wrong, and the other was right.

I'm also wondering how often I should re-compost a pot or box garden.  No more than 40% in one year, 10-20% (30 at the outside, staying away from 40).  But how much the year after that?

Offline Cedar

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Re: How do I avoid moldy compost?
« Reply #34 on: May 17, 2012, 09:22:32 AM »
To get worms, lay  piece of cardboard outside overnight and you should be able to start collecting them.

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Offline Josh the Aspie

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Re: How do I avoid moldy compost?
« Reply #35 on: May 17, 2012, 09:34:13 AM »
Cedar, how would I know that they are the right variety to use?

Offline Cedar

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Re: How do I avoid moldy compost?
« Reply #36 on: May 17, 2012, 09:45:34 AM »
All of them "compost", some just faster than others. I have TONS of worms in my finished compost (which I have not moved yet this year) and I did not put a single one in there. My county worm-composting lady, uses Red Wigglers and you can order them from lots of places.

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Offline Roundabouts

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Re: How do I avoid moldy compost?
« Reply #37 on: May 17, 2012, 10:02:17 AM »
OK got ya.  I don't think that it is one person is right or wrong.  It comes down to what will work best for you in your situation.  What you feel comfortable doing.  I have only used the red wigglers inside.  The are in a bin in my kitchen and that so far has worked great for me.  That does not mean that you would be happy with it.  Experimenting is the best way to know.  Besides I don't think her information is about selling but more about educating.  That is her main motive in that lecture.   She does provide information on several ways to get worms.  But not necessarily for her profit.  Not that profit is bad I like profit  ;D  I guess that's how I cut through the BS is looking for the motive of the person.  Then of course doing like you are doing asking questions and getting others stories.   

I tried yrs ago to do worms and the set up was so complicated for me.  It seemed that there were just to many "rules" to follow.  So when I followed what Rhonda said I just thought that seems easy enough I can do that.  So I did.  Am very happy with the results.  Plus it was cheap.

I add compost to my pots once a year.  The extra large real heavy ones about once every 2-3 yrs. Just because they were so big & a real chore.  I dump my pots out on a tarp on the kitchen table and grab a few handfuls of compost mix it all up wash and soak the pots then fill and seed / plant.  Then top with compost and water.  I do most of my watering from the bottom.  I use large clay pots.  They can dry out faster but watering them is easier for me.  They sit in a large drain tray so I just fill the drain tray up and that does the trick for me.  Found out the hard way when I lived in AZ that even though I was watering every day from the top not much water was getting to the root zone.  Hence bottom watering. 

After the plants are grown a bit and the weather starts getting warmer and the soil settles a bit I add more compost as a mulch to the top.   I never really measured anything.  Some times I would just take a regular kitchen fork and scuff up the top soil.  Don't know if that really did any thing or not but I had fun doing it. 
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Offline Josh the Aspie

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Re: How do I avoid moldy compost?
« Reply #38 on: May 17, 2012, 10:27:03 AM »
My main concerns are as follows, in order.  Efficacy (of the wormicompost, and the system as a whole), smell, cost, convenience.  The last two might need to be switched around, as they're about even, and it varies.

I can't do a top-soil wormicompost, due to not having any topsoil that's mine to work with.  As such, if I try to worm outside, the wormies will freeze or bake, so inside they must come.   So long as the home-made bins are way cheaper and work just as well, I will go with them.  But if there are some specific features on the store-bought ones that help reduce smell that I can't replicate, I may go ahead and buy one (need to look into that).  I'm planning on doing vertical separation so that I can simply harvest a whole container at a time, without having to shift things back and forth (convenience).  I'm aware that I can do a home-made setup for this, and that if I do everything right, there should be no smell.  I don't want to assume I'm going to do everything right.

From what I understand from Cedar, I can get worms for this system that will work for free by placing some litter for them to collect in, then collecting it up, but they might not be as good at it as red wigglers that have been bred for composting, so I think I'd like to go with them.  Thank you all for your input on that one.  I may want to supplement with african nightcrawlers, but I'd at least want to have the red wigglers started and see if the compost I get out of this has fine enough particles for my tastes before I go with that step.

Does this seem like a rational, and situation based plan?  Think I've missed anything?

Offline Roundabouts

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Re: How do I avoid moldy compost?
« Reply #39 on: May 17, 2012, 11:36:16 AM »
Sounds like you got it figured out to me on what you want to try!   :D  Once you do it then you will be giving advice/ stories  ;)  Oh I sure hope all comes up green and brown for you.  I know it can be so frustrating and confusing at times.  Just remember to have fun and know there are no such things as failures only learning experiences.   Also the stock pile answer to most gardening questions and dilemmas is " well that depends"  Giver her a go and enjoy the ride.  Cheers to your dirty fingernails! ;D

You will let us know how it turned out for you won't you please.
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Offline Josh the Aspie

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Re: How do I avoid moldy compost?
« Reply #40 on: May 17, 2012, 02:04:11 PM »
Thanks, but I'm still afraid I may have a black thumb.  x.x

Yes, I'm sure I'll be back to this board yelping for help sooner or later.

ATM I'm still in the research phase of this particular project.  I've got a few I'm in the middle of actually doing that I need to finish up before I start on this.

Offline Josh the Aspie

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Re: How do I avoid moldy compost?
« Reply #41 on: May 20, 2012, 12:16:33 PM »
Okay, I have my basic design for my home-made tub down, but I've got a few concerns I was hoping to bring to you guys.

#1.  I'm not sure that I'm going to generate enough plant based food scraps to feed my worms.  I'm currently buying my salad base until I get my soil improved, and most of the veggies I buy come pre-trimmed.  About the most waste I get off of them these days are the insides/stems of peppers, the shavings off the outside of a carrot (and the 2 tips),  and the skins and roots off of onions (which they say you should avoid).  I sometimes get a banana peal, or fruit core, but my beloved citrus is something I am to avoid using as well.   I'm going to have some organic waste nearly every day, but I'm not sure it's enough to keep them fed.  I'm a bachelor after all.  It's not like I'm skinning enough vegetables for a wife and 3 kids.

The resources I've been looking at say that they eat up to 50% of their mass per day, and that you should start with at least 1 lb of worms.  Will they do fine on the shredded paper bedding if they don't get supplemented with more food of other sorts?

#2.  While I have containers that are big enough, that I'd like to use, they stack very efficiently.  How do I get enough room between them without opening up gaps for fruit flies to get through?  Should I find some less-stacking-efficient boxes to use instead?

#3.  I'm wondering if it would be better to go with a third non-drilled tub as my base, or a tray of some kind and some small risers.  I've seen both designs.  I'm thinking that the tub would limit open-air exposure to the "tea" if I wind up generating any, but it may also make changing the boxes around a bit more difficult.

Offline Josh the Aspie

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Re: How do I avoid moldy compost?
« Reply #42 on: May 20, 2012, 03:38:08 PM »
I have acquired tools for my composting!  HUZZA!

I now have hardware cloth (how is this cloth?) that is 1/4" in it's openings.  I am hoping this is an appropriate size for compost/soil screening.

I also have screen door screening for the holes for my compost bin.

I also have a small staple gun to staple things with.

I am guessing I did something wrong.

Offline Skunkeye

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Re: How do I avoid moldy compost?
« Reply #43 on: May 20, 2012, 08:59:32 PM »
For the stacking containers, depending on how the containers are designed, you may be able to just place a couple blocks of wood or chunks of brick or a couple small lengths of PVC pipe in the bottom to raise the inner container up, and then fill in the resulting gap at the top with rolled-up newspaper taped in place, or a "rope" of scrunched-up aluminum foil (I use this to seal a couple of gaps in my charcoal smoker, and it works pretty well.  It's surprisingly sculptable).  You'll have to experiment a bit to see what works for the containers you're using.

Getting hold of veggie and fruit scraps shouldn't be too difficult.  You probably have a neighbor or co-worker who'd be happy to give you their vegetable scraps and peelings if you provide them an airtight container.  Just ask around - there are lots of people who feel guilty about generating too much trash who are thrilled to contribute to a project like this (a co-worker of my girlfriend has a juicer, and ends up with tons of veggie pulp every week, which we're happy to add to our compost pile).  If you end up with too much to add at one time, just keep the extra in the fridge (sealed up, of course!) until the worms are ready to eat it.

A side benefit of asking around is that it gives you an opening to possibly get someone else interested in growing their own food, too.

In any case, as long as you're providing them with some food, the worms should balance out to a population that's supportable by however much you put in there.  Some may die off, but that's life in the worm bin...


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Offline Josh the Aspie

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Re: How do I avoid moldy compost?
« Reply #44 on: May 20, 2012, 11:28:31 PM »
Thanks Skunkeye.  I just wanted to make sure that I wasn't going to wind up with a population of suddenly-dead worms.

If I were to leave on vacation, how long between feedings do the worms need?   Would I need to get a worm-sitter for a long-weekend vacation?  What about a 1-week vacation?  Could I just over-feed them ahead of time to make sure they have food while I'm gone?

Offline Skunkeye

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Re: How do I avoid moldy compost?
« Reply #45 on: May 20, 2012, 11:42:37 PM »
Worms aren't too picky.  A healthy bin can go a week or two between feedings, if necessary.  Once you start keeping them, you'll quickly get a sense of how long your guys take to break down a given amount of material.  Then, if you're going to be gone longer, just give them a little extra before you go, and they'll be fine.
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Offline Josh the Aspie

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Re: How do I avoid moldy compost?
« Reply #46 on: May 21, 2012, 02:50:39 AM »
Excellent.  I don't exactly have a pet, and if I get one, I'd rather it not be worms.  :P

Speaking of which, my apartment isn't allowed pets.  I might want to check on whether or not vermiculture would cause trouble with the landlord.

Offline archer

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Re: How do I avoid moldy compost?
« Reply #47 on: May 30, 2012, 02:14:10 PM »
Excellent.  I don't exactly have a pet, and if I get one, I'd rather it not be worms.  :P

Speaking of which, my apartment isn't allowed pets.  I might want to check on whether or not vermiculture would cause trouble with the landlord.
they are not pets. they are part of natures 'waste disposal team'. Nature's Sanitation Engineers


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Offline Josh the Aspie

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Re: How do I avoid moldy compost?
« Reply #48 on: May 30, 2012, 04:38:56 PM »
*chuckles* Right.  Thanks Archer.

I just like solving problems by not creating them in the first place.  ^_^

Offline Josh the Aspie

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Re: How do I avoid moldy compost?
« Reply #49 on: June 28, 2012, 10:51:06 AM »
Well, an update on my compost.  I've been stirring it every time I add new stuff to it (like left overs from the fruit I eat).

Every time it rains, the compost gets soaked and soggy, and it decomposes way faster.  I keep adding more stuff, but I have yet to hit the top of the bucket.

After the most recent series of torrential rains, the bucket actually compacted down to this deep black mucky soil.  I added shredded paper to it to soak up some of the water and add some more structure back in.

But when this compost is done, I seriously anticipate it to be incredibly rich.

As far as the rest of the garden goes... <.< Not so well.

And the vermicompost project is on hold until I get some more things done so that I can shuffle storage space around.

Offline Cryptozoic

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Re: How do I avoid moldy compost?
« Reply #50 on: July 06, 2012, 03:04:48 PM »
A bucket is too small for composting.  Compost is really a bacteria farm.  Bacteria needs 4 things: carbon (the brown stuff), nitrogen (the green stuff), air and water.  One of the reasons you get mold is: no air in the bucket.  Also, there are two types of bacteria, aerobic and anaerobic.  You want the first kind, which needs air.  You do not want the 2nd kind because it smells terrible.

A "real" compost pile needs about one cubic yard to insulate itself.  There are plastic tumbler things on the market which work pretty well with less than one cubic yard because the plastic helps insulate.

It's just not going to work in a bucket.
BUT! You are a prime candidate for a worm farm.  You could grow worms on your kitchen scraps (most of them, they don't like onions or peppers).  I suggest that instead of composting, you feed your stuff to worms, that would work much better in the space you have.  YouTube has lots of tutorials on how to do this.
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Offline Cryptozoic

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Re: How do I avoid moldy compost?
« Reply #51 on: July 06, 2012, 03:06:00 PM »
Amazingly, a few questions down from yours is about worm farming:
http://thesurvivalpodcast.com/forum/index.php?topic=36064.0
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Offline Josh the Aspie

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Re: How do I avoid moldy compost?
« Reply #52 on: July 08, 2012, 10:36:24 AM »
I am aware of the vermicoposting bit.  I'm not ready for that project.

I've heard the "it has no air" bit, but that makes zero sense.  Once turned, the compost is equally aerated, so each square inch has just as much access to internal air in a small pile as it does in a large pile.  And when the pile is small, more of the pile, as a percentage, is close to the surface.  Thus a small pile should have MORE access to air, on average, per square inch.

In what way does the small compost pile lack access to air?
« Last Edit: July 08, 2012, 10:42:27 AM by Josh the Aspie »

Offline BumperEagle

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Re: How do I avoid moldy compost?
« Reply #53 on: February 07, 2013, 10:31:31 PM »
I know this is an old post, but I wanted to check if you ended up doing the worm composting.  I lived in an apt last year and tried it out.  I did a fairly simple setup, just a 1x2' rubbermaid bin with holes in the bottom and sides for aeration.  I actually had it sitting out on our balcony and it did great.  I just wanted to try it out and not spend a whole lot to try it out.  I used shredded papers to add to the organic material, because I read the worms need fiber or sand to digest as well.  It helped absorb any excess moisture and kept smell down as well.

As far as the worms I used, I did just go to the pet store for worms, and asked for red worms.  They had crawlers there as well, but I read that they burrow too deep and eat much less per body mass compared to the red worms.

Only problem I had was when I went out of town for a few days and accidentally left it in a sunny spot on our balcony in midsummer.  The poor little guys baked to death...  So I would recommend shade if you keep it outside in summer.

Overall, it worked pretty well with the cheap system I had going and I ended up composting quite a bit, until I made my fatal mistake.

Either way, hope the composting endeavors have gone well

Offline Perfesser

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Re: How do I avoid moldy compost?
« Reply #54 on: February 09, 2013, 01:47:53 AM »
Just a thought... where are all the bacteria coming from to digest stuff?
Usually a compost pile is on the ground exposed to all sorts of soil bacteria. If you start with a clean bucket does it have access to the right kinds of bugs to get started in the right direction?
When adding lot of stuff to my bin I'll take a shovel or two of soil from the garden and toss it in.
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Offline Skunkeye

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Re: How do I avoid moldy compost?
« Reply #55 on: February 09, 2013, 10:47:38 AM »
There's enough bacteria on a banana peel or egg shell to start a thousand compost piles.  The bacteria and fungi you need are everywhere, including in the air.
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Offline Cedar

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Re: How do I avoid moldy compost?
« Reply #56 on: February 09, 2013, 11:02:23 AM »
As I was coming across this thread again this morning, I was wondering if the mold might be mycelium instead? Did you toss mushroom pieces in it at all? Just a thought.

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Offline Perfesser

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Re: How do I avoid moldy compost?
« Reply #57 on: February 09, 2013, 11:34:07 PM »
I think he should try a scoop of dirt for some "starter bacteria". I think what he's got is the same stinky mess you get in a compost pail in the house if you leave it for a few days.
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Offline Skunkeye

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Re: How do I avoid moldy compost?
« Reply #58 on: February 10, 2013, 12:14:03 AM »
The reason it turns to a stinky mess if you just let food scraps rot in a bucket is because the carbon:nitrogen ratio is off (way too much nitrogen), and there's too much moisture.  If you take a bucket of rotting fruit and vegetable scraps and throw a handful of soil in it, you'll still have a stinky mess until you add enough carbon to bring the mix into balance, or until the material has rotted enough to use up the excess nitrogen.  The same bacteria that are in the soil are already present on the food scraps, unless you're washing your food with antiseptic. 

If you leave a pile of green, wet grass sitting in your yard, you'll get a slimy, stinking mess, even though it's in contact with the soil.  Mix some dry leaves or sawdust in, and you'll get a hot compost pile.

Adding soil certainly wouldn't hurt, but it won't solve the problem if the compostables in question are too nitrogen-rich or too wet.
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Offline BumperEagle

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Re: How do I avoid moldy compost?
« Reply #59 on: February 11, 2013, 08:38:28 AM »
Normal composting requires oxygen.  Oxygenic degredation by bacteria also allows yeast and mold growth in a normal compost pile.

A lack of oxygen can be caused by several things in a compost pile: not turning your compost, too much moisture, no air pockets, etc.

In this case, it sounds like there was too much moisture and not enough air pockets as a result.   With the high moisture, a thick mold cake will grow on the top, but not underneath the surface.

Underneath the surface, you get anaerobic bacterial growth.  The telltale sign of anaerobic respiration is the smell.  Instead of the earthy, moldy smell of normal compost, you get a sulfurous, methane smell.

There are always enough bacteria and mold present on every compostable piece of material to start composting.  But plenty of oxygen, the right level of moisture, and the right amount of heat is also required.

That is why small scale composting is most convenient with vermiculture instead.  Rather than rely on maintaining all of the proper composting conditions on a small scale, which is difficult, you instead rely on the digestive gut of red worms.  And the worm gut, of course, has large amounts of bacteria to break down cellulose and other plant materials.