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Composting mistakes every gardener should avoid: learn them with our tips!

Composting is the ultimate recycling activity in the garden. It reduces the amount of trash that ends up in our landfills and turns it into one of the best soil conditioners you can add to your garden. To make it work, all you have to do is mix air, water and some kitchen and garden waste and then wait. Making compost isn’t rocket science, but there is a bit of science involved. A few mistakes can lead to serious frustration. Avoid the following common composting mistakes, and you’ll be rewarded with an excellent harvest.

Why is only one pile a mistake when composting?

The composter must be made in several piles

It’s always best to have at least two piles, or a bin with two compartments, so that as your first load matures, you can add new waste material to the second compartment or pile. In fact, it is best to create three piles: one that is finished, one that is decomposing, and one to which you are still adding fresh waste. Sometimes the top layer of a pile decomposes more slowly. In that case, you can throw the top layer on top of the working pile and use the compost underneath it in the garden.

Composting the right balance of “brown” and “green”.

To avoid composting mistakes, you need to use good material

One mistake many beginners make is the wrong balance of brown and green plant matter. You need carbon-rich “brown” material such as dry leaves, straw, shredded paper or sawdust and nitrogen-rich “green” material: fresh garden waste, untreated grass clippings and food waste such as fruit and vegetable peels, coffee grounds, tea bags.

To use compost in the garden is environmentally friendly and reasonable

The rule of thumb is a ratio of 3 parts brown to 1 part green. Too much green will result in a squishy, smelly mess and too much brown will slow decomposition. For example, if you add a bucket of green kitchen scraps, try adding 3 equal buckets of brown.

Exclude the use of the wrong materials

Brown and green composting must be done in proper balance


There are non-compostable wastes . Never add animal food waste such as meat, seafood, greasy foods or dairy products to your pile. These smell bad as they decompose and attract pests like cockroaches and rats. Animal waste and soiled diapers are also unsanitary and can cause disease. Avoid grass clippings from areas treated with weed killers or sawdust from treated wood, as they add chemicals to the pile that could later harm your garden plants.

A compost starter should not be left out

It takes time for the soil in the composter to be ready for the garden

Where do these industrious microscopic creatures that turn trash into rich soil come from? Some are already on the material you’re composting, but it can take a while for their populations to grow large enough in a new pile to really get decomposition going. One way to get the process started is to buy a compost starter. But you can also simply add a shovel or two of soil from your garden or some compost from a previous compost pile.

Use the right amount of water for the composter

Do not use too little or too much water for the composter


A certain amount of moisture is necessary for decomposition to take place. However, if the pile becomes too wet, the microbes no longer have enough oxygen to do their work. You can usually tell because the pile then becomes smelly and squishy. If you have this problem, mix in more dry leaves, straw or shredded paper. However, if your pile appears to be mostly dry, add water gradually and mix it in until the material is consistently moist.

Composting mistake: leaving the composter open.

Composting properly by placing the composter in the right place

If you have a large property where you can place your compost pile some distance from the house and mostly out of sight, you can forgo a lid or other cover. However, if your house is closer to neighbors, covers are a good idea for aesthetic reasons, and a cover also helps retain heat, which is especially important in the winter.

Not using just one pile for the composter

A simple plywood sheet will suffice over your compost garbage can; if you have an open pile on the ground, a tarp stretched over a wooden frame will keep the compost from getting too wet when it rains and will deter animals. It’s best to leave a few inches of space between the top of the pile and the cover to provide adequate oxygen.

Avoid lack of aeration at all costs.

The soil from the composter is used as soon as it is ready

As composting progresses, there may be a lack of oxygen in the middle of the pile. Stirring the pile will help provide air to all parts. For compost piles that are on the ground, you can do this with a pitchfork or a compost aerator designed specifically for this task. You can also poke holes in the inside of the pile. Do not overfill the pile or the compost will not have room to move. While there is no hard and fast rule on how often you should aerate the compost, once or twice a week is usually sufficient.

Continuously add to the pile: Composting mistakes

One of the mistakes in composting is continuously adding to the compost pile

If you continually add fresh material to the pile, your compost will never be finished. Once you have enough material mixed together, don’t add anything else to allow the existing material to cook. Depending on how hot your pile gets, it usually takes anywhere from 3 weeks to 3 months to finish composting. If you want to speed up the process , shred the material before adding it to the pile and aerate the pile more often. How can you recognize the finished compost? It will have an earthy smell, be dark and crumbly, and you won’t be able to recognize the waste you added to it. Now it’s ready for your garden!

Adding diseased plants: by no means.

Avoid composting mistakes by composting only healthy plants

Do not add diseased plants from your garden to your compost pile. There are pathogens or diseases like tomato blight that cannot be killed in most cases.

Aerate the composter regularly to speed up the process