Composting Is Easy Simply Because It’s A Natural Process. But Everyday I Read About How Hard It Is. Why? Because of Composting Myths.

Here are the most common composting myths …..

1. Composting Is Difficult

Low Cost Gardening Techniques Using Compost Bins
Low Cost Gardening Techniques Using Compost Bins Dispel Many Common Composting Myths

No, it’s not. It’a perfectly natural process that will happen as soon as we turn our backs!

All organic matter eventually decomposes. It’s natures ultimate recycling process and recycles plant nutrients over and over again. Just leave organic matter in a heap and it’ll rot down. And even if you don’t put it in a heap it will rot down.

 2. Composting is Time Consuming

My compost takes around a year to make. But it can be made in a few weeks if you are in a hurry. Personally I don’t think gardening is a race, and nor is compost making. Gardening has taught me patience. But if you want to make compost really fast, it is possible.

3. Composting is Smelly & Unpleasant 

Subpods Claim To Be The Best Composting System You've Ever Seen
Subpods Claim To Be The Best Composting System You’ve Ever Seen. But cheaper systems are available.

If your compost is smelly you are doing something wrong.  Well made compost smells sweet and earthy. It’s pleasant to handle once it’s matured.

But compost needs air to decompose and if you have a wet, airless cold compost heap you will get smells .. but only because you’ve not managed the process correctly. Give the compost a turn and introduce some air. The smells will go. And if you do this from the start next time you’ll not get smells next time.

4. Compost Attracts Rats

There’s an old saying that we are never more than few yards from a rat. That’s possibly true. But what isn’t true is that well managed compost heaps attract rats. However, if you leave food uncovered rats are likely to be attracted to it. That’s as true under bird feeders as in compost heaps. Yet I rarely see people say we should stop feeding birds.

The answer is to ensure you don’t leave food scraps where they will attract rats. So if you worry about rats don’t put cooked and uncooked food in your compost bin. You can add them to some sealed systems, but uncovered heaps are best not used to decompose fish and meat based food scraps. But vegetables are fine, I add those

5. Collecting Food Waste is Smelly

Gardening hands holding compost
Compost should be moist and free flowing

If you manage the process well there is no smell. But like all waste bins you would be well advised to not leave them in the sun, full of rotting food, for weeks. Empty them regularly and there will be no smell. They will smell a lot less than the food waste bins many people put out for their council collection every few weeks.

There Are More Common Composting Myths Below

6. Composting Takes a Lot of Space.

Gardening Myths of which there are many are discussed here
Gardening Myths of which there are many are discussed here. Compost bins can take very little space.

Wrong. You can compost in a few square foot of space. It’s different of course if you have several acres of garden and produce a lot of waste. But the average gardener needs very little space to compost on. And the extra plant food from compost gives higher yields on the rest of the plot. It more than compensates.

If space is really at a premium look at some of the sealed systems such as bokashi bins are space efficient and can be used indoors or outdoors. Personally I don’t use them, but a lot of people swear by them.

7. Lots of Things Can’t Be Composted

Certainly you can’t compost non organic materials. But if it’s organic then sooner or later it will decompose. Though I’ve suggested that some foods might be avoided in some cases, anything you can eat can be composted.

I read that onions, garlic and citrus can’t be composted. It’s untrue. I compost them all without any problems.

I also read that mown grass can’t be composted. Apparently it forms a very smelly wet mess and I’ll regret it forever. Untrue. I regularly compost grass. The secret is to mix it with other material and turn it a few times as it heats up.

If I’ve a really big heap of grass I turn it every 2-3 days until it cools down a bit. That takes less than two weeks. It’s not a problem. In fact grass speeds ups the composting process if properly mixed in.

8. Compost Activators Are Essential For Fast Compost

Rubbish. In nature the process is natural. No one goes out and buys an accelerator and adds it to decomposing material.

Cardboard can be composted without shredding
Cardboard can be composted without shredding

I suggest you use nature’s natural accelerators rather than waste money on “chemicals”.

The secret of fast compost is getting the carbon to nitrogen mix right (what some people call greens and browns). Green materials tend to be higher in nitrogen and are needed for bacteria and fungi to grow fast. They are often the limiting factor.  So if you add more grass or similar high nitrogen material the process speeds up and the bacteria breed faster and generate more heat. The next limiting factor is oxygen (air), without it the good bacteria can’t breed and the bad bacteria (anaerobes) take over and create smelly compost.

The magic formula of carbon to nitrogen is 30:1. Thats 30 parts of carbon to one part of nitrogen. That isn’t the same as 30 volumes of brown to one volume of green. And that is what confuses many gardeners.

And greens and browns aren’t that obvious either. A leaf straight off the tree is fresh and green. It’s a green. But a few months later it can fall from a treen and be a brown. The same with grass. Freshly mown grass is a green, its high nitrogen. But when dried to become hay it is a different product and regarded as a brown.

And because most gardener’s find this very confusing, it’s best to ignore it. Just mix what ever you have to make compost and let it get on with the natural process of decomposition.

Let’s face it you aren’t going to be able to put the same material in all year. In autumn you’ll have dry leaves … but they will not be available in spring!

As for activators. If you want to add more nitrogen use some chicken manure or urine. Victorian gardeners emptied the chamber pot on their compost heap and made excellent compost!

You certainly don’t need to buy expensive accelerators .. whatever the adverts tell you.

9. Only Gardeners Should Make Compost

No. Anyone can make compost. Just drop your kitchen waste, cardboard and the organic material into a small bin and stir it occasionally. It’ll decompose and be good for pot plants and to grow a few fresh veg on a windowsill. Try sprouting seeds and micro greens. 

Every kilo of waste you remove from council recycling saves carbon and can be turned into rich fertile compost that you can use at home. It saves “waste miles”, stops methane production in landfill and is good to do.

10. Learning How To Compost is Hard.

I disagree. I’ve put lots of composting advice on this site and there are some great books on the topic as well.

Check out my bookshop .. The Gardening Guy .. for a range of composting books.


Say Goodbye To Common Composting Myths

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