grateful
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Have I wrecked my compost? Is it fixable?

Hi there, I think I've wrecked my compost, and need some help please.

I defrosted my freezer a few days ago, and threw some of the food into the compost bin. Today there's a lot of mold - at least I think it's mold, it's grey and powdery - in it, and when I turned it, clouds of spores came up and I cannot find any worms either. There were hundreds/thousands of worms in it before.

So I added a lot of shredded newspaper to it, unsoaked, and poked it all in. I hope the increased carbon may calm it all down.

What do you folk think? Is it saveable? Is it dangerous?

tomc
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Mold is part of decomposition. It sorta sounds dry more than anything else. A serving of high N stuff can cook out a patch. Which is what I'm wondering out loud, may have happened.

Fork it around a little and it should pass. One of the more articulate posters should be along shortly and they can tell us both, what I missed.
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gumbo2176
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I hope when you said you "Threw some food from the freezer in the compost bin", you meant all things vegetable. It is possible to compost meats, but from all I've read, it takes a lot of heat generated by your pile to make it work and the average household compost bin doesn't come close.


That said, my compost pile goes through these changes from time to time with just vegetable matter added to it. I really don't sweat it if the worms disappear, but I do prefer them being there. My current compost piles are looking great but have fewer worms than they did earlier this year.

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rainbowgardener
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Yeah I'm thinking too that the pile heated up with a whole bunch of nitrogen heavy stuff. The times I've seen the grey powdery stuff in my pile (which at first I thought was ashes, but I gather is something fungal, but not mold) has been when for a change it heated up a lot more than usual. For me that's when I have added a bunch of duckweed skimmed from the pond. It is very nitrogen rich and fine textured and heats up like crazy.

It gets too hot for the earthworms at that point and they leave, but they will come back when it cools down again.

So yeah, add some "browns" -- leaves or shredded paper or something -- turn it a little and all will be well, no safety problems.
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grateful
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Thanks everyone, for your advice and comments, I appreciate it.

There was no meat in the frozen foods.

I thought the opposite to it all heating up, as most of the food was still thawing when I tossed it in, so that would have lowered the temp. However we did have a couple of very hot days here (I'm in Sydney) so maybe that did it.

I checked it this morning, and the newspaper that I added yesterday was wet, so the pile probably got too wet when the foods thawed out. I've turned it and added more newspaper to soak up the moisture. And add more carbon of course.

Fingers crossed! Thanks again! I'll update this thread with my results....

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gixxerific
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Yes you just restarted the engine by adding what you did. It should heat up and that is good. The heat is a by-product of the microorganisms do their job. Even if it was cold when it went in the mid product is heat the end product is compost. May sound weird but true. Kind of like if your pile dry's out you spray it with water that can help bring the acitivity back. Even bacteria etc need water or they die or go into "hibernation". Sometimes people freak when there pile starts getting very hot they add water to cool it down but that can get it going even hotter. :lol: :shock:

You are fine it will all work out in the end. It is VERY VERY hard to mess up compost.

As far as the spores try not to inhale them, they can be harmful in LARGE doses. For the most part they won't hurt you but to be safe try to stear clear of them. It would take A LOT at one time to really hurt you.

toxcrusadr
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Well short of serious harm, they certainly can stuff up your nose if you're sensitive.
Tox

grateful
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Today's update :

I opened the compost bin, and there are worms in the lid, hooray.

I started turning the pile over and it is hot, it's steaming, yeehaaa. Didn't see any worms in it, probably too hot.

Still doesn't smell the best, but I guess that will improve.

I didn't add anything today, just turned it.

I kept holding my breath while turning it, to not breathe in the spores, just in case. Didn't see much powdery stuff in it though so that's a good sign I guess.

Should I be adding more carbon do you think?

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applestar
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I think when it's steaming hot it's at the right ratio so you on't want to mess with it too much. Just let them do their stuff.

Congratulations. :D

toxcrusadr
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If it gets REALLY hot, to the point you can't hold your hand against the hottest part of the pile, OR if it continues smelling bad, you can add more browns to absorb nitrogen and slow it down just a tad. But it sounds good!
Tox

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I really appreciate everyone's input, many thanks.

This morning the pile is even hotter, the worms have disappeared from the lid, and the smell isn't any better. The steam coming off it looks like there's a fire.

So I got my hubby to thoroughly turn it (he's much stronger than me and does a better job) then added some more paper to hopefully slow it down. Will check again tomorrow.

john gault
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grateful wrote:I really appreciate everyone's input, many thanks.

This morning the pile is even hotter, the worms have disappeared from the lid, and the smell isn't any better. The steam coming off it looks like there's a fire.

So I got my hubby to thoroughly turn it (he's much stronger than me and does a better job) then added some more paper to hopefully slow it down. Will check again tomorrow.
Just curious. What's the size of your pile, i.e. length, width, height?

grateful
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It's in a compost bin, so 'bout 60cm square (2') and 40cm high or so at the moment (16").

This is my second lot, starting it again after I used most of it. I make no-dig gardens, and I had to throw them out and make new ones after all the local vegie gardens died in May after a herbicide leak from Dupont's factory a couple of blocks away, that killed all the plants, and poisoned the soil. Yes they are being investigated, however they are denying it. One guy nearby grew prize orchids as a hobby and they all died, about $30,000 worth. Heartbreaking..

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gixxerific
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toxcrusadr wrote:Well short of serious harm, they certainly can stuff up your nose if you're sensitive.
People have died, need links?

grateful
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Thanks gixxerific, I seem to be OK from breathing in the spores, no harm done.

toxcrusadr
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I was not suggesting that mold never causes serious illness, only that clouds of spores can really give you an allergy attack even if they are the type that don't cause serious illness. This is probably much more likely to happen and I thought it was worth mentioning.
Tox

grateful
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Today's update...

The pile is still steaming, and no sign of any worms. All the dry newspaper I added so far has become wet, so I added more to soak up the moisture.

I didn't see any spores, mold or fungal growth, although it doesn't smell any better, so there may be some.

john gault
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As long as it's steaming the worms won't be there, they exit when it gets that warm. If they're in a enclosed container they will die in those temps.

grateful
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Thankfully John, the bottom of the compost bin is open directly onto the ground, so the worms have somewhere else to go. I knew that system would be advantageous one day!

Haven't checked the pile today, it's been too hot weather wise, now it's pouring rain... that's Sydney for you. I'll check it tomorrow.

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