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Compost bins & smell

I'm debating starting a compost pile. Before I do I want to research it both via websites and what actual people have to say. I have a basic idea of items that can go in a compost heap, plus I know finding lists of what is good & what's not will be in large supply no matter where I look.

I know compost is suppose to be a good, home made fertlizer for plants.

My 2 questions to this forum are:

Can I build my own compost bin? If so, what do you suggest.


Do composts have a smell? Obviously do, but how bad? Can there be anything done for it.

If I do this, I will be doing it out back of my garage. I can reach anytime of year. The thing is I live in the middle of my small town, so I'm worried if the smell would bother my neighbors.

Thanks for your help.

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Mod Emeritus
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My compost smells like earth. Even during the time when I'm adding to it and it's working, but hasn't yet actually turned into finished compost.

I think it's critical that it get good aeration, in order to prevent bad odors. (JMO ... this is the first year in a long, long time that I've made compost, and the ideas are somewhat different from what they were in the old days. :wink: )

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Welcome to the wonderful world of composting! Best single thing you can do for your garden.

Absolutely you can build your own compost bin. The simplest is just a set of stakes in a circle wrapped with hardware cloth or concrete reinforcing wire.

Here's a site with plans for a variety of different kinds of homemade compost bins:

And no, compost bins/ piles if managed correctly do not have any bad smell. I keep a bucket under my sink to collect kitchen scraps for the compost pile. The bucket is tightly closed (ie NOT aerated) and has only kitchen scraps and it does get stinky at times, especially in summer. But I take the bucket of stinky stuff, dump in on the pile in the open air and cover it with a good layer of weeds, leaves, etc and voila, no smell.

Do read the sticky at the top of this section on greens/browns. Only two keys to good compost: some basic balance of greens/browns (not rocket science, doesn't have to be precise) and remember if it is dry enough to water your garden, to water your compost pile also.

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A compost pile can smell but it doesn't have to.

High nitrogen materials, like grass clippings and kitchen scraps, or greens, tend to be the culprits. High carbon materials, like leaves, shredded paper, dry woody stuff, or browns, do not tend to smell.

Use the browns or carbons to mitigate the greens or nitrogens. Keep some carbons handy to use as cover when necessary. I made a lot of mistakes starting out and so sometimes I get a smelly bin for a day or two but it isn't that strong and will dissipate.

Ammonia smells mean nitrogen is getting away so cover with some browns. Sewer smells means it needs air - turn and mix and then cover with carbons. Maybe back off on the water too.

Good easy to read basics plus bin ideas at the following link:

Take it easy. You will not end up with a major disaster on your hands. If something goes wrong, it will still decompose with time. Do not let the composting routine dictate how you live your life, make it work into your life. There are lots of ways to approach it, cheap and easy, elaborate and intensive, pretty or, down and dirty.

Your bin should not be too close to the house and not far away from your water supply.

Give it a chance and chances are you will enjoy it.

to sense

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Location: West Tennessee Zone 6b

Ditto on the more browns if smelly.You might also use charcoal to keep the smell at bay.This also gives you another form of stable innoculant for your garden.

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