Controlling Moisture While Composting

Controlling Moisture While Composting

Controlling Moisture While Composting

IMG_6087.jpgIn most of the United States composting season is almost over -- or is it? Believe it or not, composting season just started! Just started you say? Yes!

Okay, what do I mean by that? Well, think about it... the gardening season is winding down in my neck of the woods. All I've got left are cold-weather crops, and some unharvested potatoes, carrots, and red beets. We'll come back to those in a little bit.  All the other plants -- the tomatoes, the potatoes, the herbs -- have wilted with the frost. There's a lot of dead material to compost as you clean out your garden and prepare it for winter. That's why I say it's just the beginning of the composting season -- but there's a catch and a few things to look out for.

Composting, as you well know, takes a certain amount of heat. Winter, as you also know, is relatively cold -- thereby introducing some problems to traditional composting. That's one of the reasons the Lifetime Composter is black, to absorb the winter sun and use that to heat the composting materials. The Lifetime Composter also features a hollow, double-wall, which adds some insulating value that other, single-walled composters don't have.

But even with the black color and double-walls, temperatures inside the composter can still drop below freezing which, in addition to stopping any composting activity, will turn a soggy mix into a block of ice. Which brings us back to that "catch" and things to look out for that I mentioned earlier. A BuyLifetime.com customer wrote in with the following question:

We have had the tumbler about a mo. and a half. We are excited. Our problem is controlling the moisture over the last few days we have noticed magots growing like crazy. We use primarily kitchen/vegetableand fruit scraps. Are we doing something wrong? I'm afraid we need to destroy what we have started and start over - we just need to understand the why behind the growing of these magots! Thanks a bunch. 

Moisture and maggots. Yuck! Maggots aren't necessarily a bad thing, they are, after all, decomposers. You don't want them to turn into flies and make your pleasant composter into an eyesore, so getting to the bottom of why you have maggots is probably a good idea.

First of all, you won't generally find maggots in a good mix of ingredients. If you're throwing away table scraps, particularly dairy (cheese) and meats, there's your problem. Stop putting those in your composter and you'll probably have solved the problem. (As long as the meat isn't chicken or turkey you can feed it, along with the dairy, to your chickens, then compost their droppings.)

Next, moisture. Your compost materials should be damp, not wet, and definitely not soggy. If you find your mix in this state -- wet and sloppy -- add some dry materials. That can be hard to do around this time of year, when just about everything you add to the mix is wet. To remedy this, add some very dry "stuff" (that's the technical term). Sawdust works great, dry straw or dry lawn clippings (the yellow kind that crumble in your fist) also work pretty well. Dry coffee grounds, and even hair can help dry out your mix). Having a "dry" mix in the winter will allow you to keep turning your compost -- something you can't do if it's a block of ice.

Lastly, heat. Yes, it might be below freezing out there, but making sure your composter is in the sun for as many hours of the day will help keep composting -- albeit at a slower pace. Don't forget to turn it every few days, and add all those non-meat, non-dairy table scraps all through the winter. Hopefully you'll have a fresh batch of compost all ready to go as soon as the ground is ready to work in the spring!

Joe

Joe

Name: Joe

Position at Lifetime Products: Web Developer. What does that mean? I work with the rest of the web team to put great designs into industry standard HTML5, CSS3, ASP.NET MVC, and use other techno-jargon stuff to help our customers find what they're looking for, learn about our products, and have a fun time doing it.

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How long at Lifetime Products: Since November 2005

Background: You’ve always wanted to know who on earth Joe is, and even if you haven't we're going to tell you anyway! He was born in Weber County, Utah, USA. He is a descendant of Paiute (Native American) heritage and is a member of the Kanosh (Utah) Band. He is a member of various community, church, and civic organizations, and is actively involved with local, state, and national government. He is concerned with customer service and is striving to educate businesses concerning proper “consumer etiquette”. Joe is a Thawte Web of Trust Notary and is involved with seamless Digital Signatures utilizing Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) and similar technologies. He is a husband and father. He rides his recumbent bicycle to work every day. He enjoys gardening, houseplants, mobile computing, camping, authoring web sites, working in the yard, and spending time with his family. How does he do it all? We really don’t have the foggiest. Some have suspected he’s discovered the secrets of cold fusion, while others think he may be an android. We may never know for certain.

My favorite Lifetime Products: Lifetime Yard cart, outdoor sheds, camp tables, and picnic tables

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Comments

charlys huerta

11/16/2010 9:43:07 AM

Very interesting and helpful information, Joe. Thanks for taking the time to educate your readers about something you obviously have alot of experience in. Good tips!

Reply

Heather Hales

12/10/2010 2:08:58 PM

Joe, If maggots are not always a bad thing, can I keep my compost if it does become infested or should I dump it and start over? Thanks

Reply

Joe

12/15/2010 3:08:30 PM

No, don't throw out your mix. If you want to get rid of the maggots, just make it a little drier and keep cooking. The maggots will eventually BECOME compost. :) 

If the mix isn't getting hot enough to kill them, you may want to purchase a baited fly trap (like this one) and hang it next to your composter to catch them once they turn into flies.

Reply






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