Challenges of Composting & Ways to Deal With It


Last Updated on September 17, 2022 by Real Men Sow

Everyone knows that composting is not an easy task. There are a lot of things to consider as you go through the process of composting. So, here are the challenges of composting you might encounter and how you’re going to handle them.

6 Challenges of Composting

Composting is a great way to keep your yard looking tidy, but it’s not an easy task. There are a lot of things to consider as you go through the process of composting. So, here are the challenges you might encounter when you’re composting and how you’ll handle them.

1. Composting in Winter

Even though composting is slower in winter, it can still be done. And it should not stop you from collecting ingredients to improve your composting system.

For all winter inputs, a frame made of old straw or hay bales that is stacked two high and covered with plywood can be a great storage container. You’re good to go if you can lift the wood for more ingredients. You could also leave a gap on one side for the material to be inserted. Cover the front opening with material if desired. You can also use straw or hay bales to add brown/carbon material that will help you get to finished compost in spring.

The composting process will be halted temporarily if a compost pile freezes. Winter is the primary reason why decomposition takes longer. This is because organisms living in the material do the work of breaking it down. 

Two Types of Microbes

  • Mesophilic: Microbes can live and grow here at temperatures between 50 and 113 degrees F. The activity is less intense and decomposition takes place much slower.
  • Thermophilic: Microbes can live and grow here at temperatures between 113 and 158 degrees F. In the warmer months, they are more active in the consumption of material that generates heat which “cooks” the compost.

A pile that is large enough to generate more heat than it loses is the best way to encourage composting. A pile of 4’x4’x4′ should provide enough insulation to keep the winter temperatures from getting too cold, while still allowing for some interior decomposition.

2. Indoor Composting

Finding a way to compost in a small space is one of the greatest challenges of composting for urban dwellers who live in condos, townhouses, or apartments. Although it is in our hearts to compost, the practicality and reality of this task present unique challenges. Although I would love to claim that anyone can compost anywhere, it is not possible. The results will be very small in small areas.

Practicalities of Traditional Composting Indoors

The ingredients that make compost must be large enough to achieve critical mass. This is much more than what a yardless house can provide. It is difficult to create compost in an apartment, condo, or townhome using traditional methods. But, you don’t have to stop at all.

Anyone can begin the composting process. Your space constraints may make it difficult to complete the process. You can only keep food scraps indoors for so long. It is only a matter of time before the fruit flies or the smell will make you want to find the fastest way outside. If you don’t have such access, set up a temporary place in your home to store the ingredients in an additional bucket. You can then have someone (or a company, as described above) collect it and bring it to a composting site to complete the process.

You will need to have a storage container for the first ingredients if you are still keen to start the process at your home. A large, stainless steel bowl with a tight-fitting cover works well for me. Stainless steel is resistant to odors and easy to clean. A lid is essential! This is what I mean.

Methods Of Indoor Composting

Bokashi

A Japanese term that refers to “fermented compost”. Bokashi is used to compost all organic food waste including dairy and meat. This method was originally developed in Japan and is used to ferment food in Asia before composting. This process makes use of lactobacillus bacteria to predigest the waste material, which reduces the time and eliminates odors.

Anaerobic Composting 

Anaerobic processes produce an acidic environment that is similar to the one found in the stomach. The term “digester”, which is used to refer to anaerobic processes, was also used to differentiate them from aerobic composting. The stomach holds the title for acidic environments. An anaerobic digester may have a pH of four, but the stomach has a pH between one and two.

Vermicomposting

This involves using earthworms to digest the organic material. You will need a bin, either homemade or purchased from a commercial source, to store the worms as well as food scraps. You can place the storage bin under your kitchen counter or in a basement. Worms don’t like freezing temperatures.

3. Odor

The smell of organic matter in compost piles is not a problem if they have the right amount of moisture, air, carbon (browns), and nitrogen (greens). It has never been an issue in the many years I have been composting. You can mix the new feedstock with your older stock to make sure you are incorporating more of both the old and the new. You can also add more dry brown/carbon stock like straw, hay, and shredded dry leaves.

It will accomplish two things. First, it will bring in more oxygen to dry out the saturated areas (which is why it smells). Second, agitation returns the inputs to an oxygen-rich aerobic condition which is what you require as one of the four main components of organic matter that can be biodegraded. The following materials are what you should mix in together. Adding these materials should be back on the right track within a day with no objectionable lingering smells.

Ingredients To Add to Your Compost Pile

The feedstock (Raw Material)

The most common ingredients in a home composting system do not cause offensive odors. This is especially true if they are added to the pile shortly after being discarded. These ingredients can become obnoxious only after they are stored for a long time. It is important to get the materials composted as soon as you can.

High Nitrogen Materials

The materials that release ammonia (e.g.: wet grass clippings). You can quickly reduce the pungent smell by adding extra carbon (such as dry leaves) to the mixture.

Wet Raw Materials

Although moisture is desirable, saturated or wet materials are not. This is especially true for high-nitrogen ingredients. Mixing ingredients regularly will help reduce excess moisture and evaporation.

4. Critter and Rodent Control

You can keep your compost attractive to wildlife if you only add the basic ingredients of vegetables and leafy greens from the garden, as well as yard debris. If you want to deter rodents or other critters from digging up your compost pile, make sure it is kept well-watered and turned regularly. Also, cover any new food scraps with existing compost, leaves, straw, or compost. This will ensure that food waste is quickly shredded and becomes less attractive to unwelcome visitors.

We can’t always see what might lurk in the dark, but critters are curious and will investigate your pile just as any other creature. Their main job is to forage. It is not a problem to me and there is no reason why you shouldn’t make compost.

5. Deterring Fire Ants

Your first step should be to make sure your compost pile is not overrun by fire ants. The ants will be less likely to colonize your compost pile if you turn it more often. They prefer a dry environment. Keep your compost moist to encourage them to move on. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t discourage all ants. Black ants can be harmless to you. They are active members of the soil food web and help to break down the material to make compost.

6. Dealing with Flies

Fly infestations around compost piles can only occur when food scraps are open to the air. Instead, cover them with brown material, such as leaves, compost, or wood shavings. This is also true for worm bins. Instead of putting food scraps on the surface, you can place them in the bedding. It’s as simple as that.

Challenges of Composting Conclusion

We know that composting isn’t for everyone, and that’s fine. We encourage you to do what works best for you, even if it means that you don’t compost or only compost a little. Either way, we hope this article was helpful! And feel free to share your experiences as you start composting at home and let us know the challenges of composting you have encountered. If a question comes up, leave us a comment in the section below.


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