The 5 Most Common Composting Mistakes – And How To Avoid Them!

By simply eliminating a few common composting mistakes, it is amazing how quickly a slow-working compost pile can turn into a black-gold making machine!

Making homemade compost is an incredible way to power your flowers, vegetables, shrubs and trees.

Not only is it loaded with minerals and nutrients, compost is teeming with beneficial bacteria and microorganisms as well.

composting mistakes
A hot compost pile steams in the early morning sun.

And together, all of that goodness helps turn ordinary soil into a super-charged, humus-filled powerhouse.

But in order to have great compost, you need to start with a great compost pile.

And that means avoiding some of the most common pitfalls that can hinder a pile’s performance and efficiency.

Here is a look at 5 of the most common composting mistakes made, and how to avoid them!

The 5 Most Common Composting Mistakes

#1 Failing To Turn The Pile

By far, failing to turn or aerate a pile is the most common composting mistake made in backyard compost piles.

Without oxygen, a compost pile can’t generate heat. And, without heat, decomposition slows to a crawl.

common composting mistakes
A pitchfork is a great tool to have nearby the compost pile. It can make quick work of turning a pile.

But by flipping or turning a pile, oxygen is re-introduced into the core, and the decomposition and heating is allowed to continue.

And the more frequently you turn the pile, the more quickly it will decompose. In fact, just a few flips with a pitchfork is more than enough to re-introduce the oxygen needed to do the trick.

So how much should you turn you pile?

Once a day is ideal for turning. But at the very least, turn it at least a minimum of once a week to keep proper oxygen supplied to the core.

#2 Adding The Wrong Materials

Although it is true that nearly everything will eventually decompose, there are some things that should never be added to a backyard compost pile.

And meat and oily products are at the top of that list!

composting mistakes
Vegetable and fruit scraps are great to add to the compost pile, but meat and meat products are a big no-no.

Not only can adding these make for a rancid, odor-filled pile, they also attract mice, rats, raccoon and other pests and vermin.

And although it is more than okay to add chicken, rabbit or other farm animal manure, cat and dog manure should always be kept out of the pile.

Pet feces can carry harmful pathogens that are then passed on.

#3 Avoiding Composting Mistakes – Having A Pile Too Wet Or Too Dry.

Much like a compost pile needs oxygen to work, it also needs moisture.

In fact, proper moisture is critical in keeping the decomposition process in motion.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, a pile that is too wet can unfortunately snuff out the oxygen.

adding moisture with a hose
Compost piles need moisture to fuel decomposition. Adding a bit of water now and then helps keep a pile active.

As a rule of thumb, materials in a perfectly balanced pile should feel like a well-wrung out sponge.

If your pile is too dry, simply add water to increase activity. And if you are getting too much rain, simply cover it to keep it from becoming soaked.

#4 Adding Diseased Plants

When adding materials to your pile, always refrain from adding diseased plants from your garden or flowerbeds.

Most backyard compost piles fail to reach a center core that is hot enough to kill pathogens or diseases such as tomato blight.

tomato blight
Adding diseased plants like this blighted tomato plant to your compost pile is a big no-no.

And without that high heat, any soil born diseases present from diseased plants placed in the pile can easily be passed on.

#5 Keep Out Seed Cores

When it comes to composting mistakes, adding in the seed cores from your vegetables and fruits is another list topper!

Just like with diseased plants, most backyard compost piles don’t generate enough heat to kill seeds.

That means all of those tomato and peppers seeds placed in this years pile will come up as seedlings wherever your compost is used next year.

And that can cause quite the nightmare for weeding chores!

So get out there and turn that compost pile, and start making great compost to power your garden to new heights.

This Is My Garden is a garden website created by gardeners, publishing two articles every week, 52 weeks a year. This article may contain affiliate links.

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