3 Common Mistakes when Making Homemade Compost

Are you making your own compost and it isn't working? Don't worry, everything has a solution. In this article, we'll tell you the most common mistakes when making homemade compost.
3 Common Mistakes when Making Homemade Compost

Last update: 05 July, 2021

Some of us make certain mistakes when making homemade compost. We often use this natural fertilizer in organic agriculture to fertilize various types of plants. It’s also an effective option for minimizing organic waste and environmental pollution.

In her book “Organic Agriculture: Compost“, Adriana Van Konijnenburg, an Argentine agronomist, explains that the animal and vegetable remains that reach the soil are food for many creatures that live there.

These specimens are responsible for converting such waste into organic matter with the ability to improve the porosity, microbial life, and structure of the soil. What should you keep in mind? What are the mistakes you should avoid? Keep reading to learn more!

Suitable materials to make homemade compost

As we just mentioned, the process of home composting isn’t complex. Even so, in addition to appealing to all our reserves of patience -as it’s a slow process- we must take into account certain issues.

One of them are the materials, as not all remains are suitable for this process. So, which are the best? The following are the most commonly used ones.

  • Grass cut and dried in the sun
  • Peels and small pieces of fruits and vegetables
  • Dried leaves
  • Coffee grounds and tea residues
  • Remains of pruning, chopped into small pieces
  • Citrus fruits
  • Animal manure
Homemade compost.
Making homemade compost isn’t complicated. However, we must avoid some mistakes that can affect its quality.

3 common mistakes when composting at home

There are many indicators that something is wrong with your compost, and these aren’t always due to the same factors. For example, it can happen if there are problems with temperature, the presence of bugs, or the smell of rot. What mistakes may you be making?

1. The compost has a bluish-green color, and its interior is moist and compact

This may mean that it has excess water and insufficient aeration. To solve this problem, you should mix and crumble, while turning the wet layers with the drier outer layers, says Van Konijnenburg in her book.

2. The mixture isn’t heated

When decomposition begins, the temperature must rise considerably. If this doesn’t happen, you may be making mistakes in composting. There are many causes and these can include the following:

  • It’s too small to warm up: To prevent this mistake, it’s best to make the compost in bins.
  • It was made with materials that are too dry: This is a very simple mistake to fix; just water the mixture at regular 12-hour intervals.
  • It was built in winter: If the compost was built in times of overly cold temperatures, it’s best to wait until spring to turn it over and add new layers of fresh materials. In this way, you’ll be able to activate it.
  • It’s too wet: In this case, mixing it with dry materials and turning it over will activate the decomposition of the mixture.

3. The mixture attracts flies and smells rotten

As Van Konijnenburg warns in her book that, if you make this kind of composting mistake, the best remedy is to rotate the mixture and combine the more condensed layers with porous and carbon-rich materials. Examples of such ingredients are dry grass, sawdust, or straw.

Tips for making good homemade compost

Making homemade compost not only reduces the need to use chemical fertilizers, but also contributes to protecting the environment. On the other hand, as stated in the Farmer’s Composting Manual of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, it has other advantages over large-scale composting.

On the one hand, it allows a more precise control of the irruption of birds and rodents. It also favors the turning of the mixture and protects it from the wind and rain. To create good material and avoid the aforementioned mistakes, we’ll give you some tips.

Choose the type of composter and the work area

The choice of a horizontal or vertical composter will depend on the amount of material that you’ll use, and the available area. Regarding this last point, specialists recommend that the site be preferably ventilated, covered and easily accessible.

Chop the material and fill the container

For optimal development of decomposition, you should chop the ingredients until they’re between 5 and 20 cm in size (2 and 8 inches). Filling the compost bin can take two to three weeks. Then, you’ll have to leave it to rest until the process is finished and the compost is removed.

Finishing the process and obtaining the final compost

If you haven’t made any mistakes when making the compost, you should proceed, in this last instance, to the turning, aeration, sieving, and quality control. With this, you’ll be able to extract the final compost. Once the process is finished, all that remains is to use it.

a tipped over homemade compost
For optimal decomposition development, specialists recommend chopping the ingredients until they’re 5 to 20 cm in size.

Community composting, a way to avoid composting mistakes

A study carried out by the International University of Andalusia exposes the effectiveness of community composting techniques as part of the solution to the problem of urban solid waste.

People who came to the urban garden L’Hortet del Forat, in Barcelona, were able to have contact with their organic waste 24 hours a day. In addition, they offered a theoretical and practical workshop on composting.

The conclusion of the work they carried out was positive. They determined that this technique succeeded in increasing the awareness, understanding, and ability of the citizens in relation to the separation and recycling of organic waste.

For this reason, the authors of the study suggest that the states take matters into their own hands to create waste prevention plans in neighborhoods and cities. They argue that they could even reward, for example with a tax reduction, those who practice correctly performed composting.

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  • Instituto Nacional de Tecnología Agropecuaria. Van Konijnenburg, Adriana. Agricultura Orgánica: el Compost. Argentina 2007.
  • Organización de las Naciones Unidas para la Alimentación y la Agricultura. Manual de Compostaje del Agricultor: experiencias en América Latina. Chile 2013.
  • Universidad Internacional de Andalucía. Análisis de las características técnicas y sociales asociadas a procesos de compostaje comunitario. España 2012.