aqaukitty
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Compost gone wild...Please help

i know nothing about composting--i thought if you just put all your organic waste (minus meat and bones) in a big black plastic bin with the lid on and left in in the sun that at some point in the near future there would be soil...So, i did that. And now the african sun has very much digested lots of cabbage and banana peels and I have a bin full of huge bugs and maggots and water and what looks like fiber from coconuts. (but i didn't put any coconuts in there.) Now i can't empty the bin--it is full to the top with this sluggy mixture and it is very scary....looking. I think it may explode or attack me in the night.
Please, isnt' there some way to make this work out? Is there any way to remedy my compost gone wild or must I just wait until the bugs have nothing left to digest?

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applestar
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Wow, this is a big challenge to answer since I imagine that the vegetable scraps YOU are talking about are very much different from mine, and I'm creeped out just thinking about the kinds of bugs you might be talking about (I know generally African bugs are BIGGER than ones around here :eek: )

Did you container allow air circulation? Did you add 1/2 greens (moist plant matter) and 1/2 browns (dried up or dead woody/leaf/grass/paper matter) and layer them or mix them up occasionally? Take a look at the GREENS and BROWNS sticky listed at the top of this forum (you may have to do a fair amount of "translating". :wink:

Only solution that I've heard of, not done myself, for massive insect invasion in the compost pile is to open/scatter the bin/pile and allow chickens and geese to pick at them. They'll add manure to the pile and aerate/mix up the ingredients at the same time they eat up the bugs. Can you do something similar without attracting unwanted animals?

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rainbowgardener
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Somehow I'm guessing that there's no air circulation in this plastic bin with the lid on. That's where you went wrong. Composting is an AEROBIC process.

You said it's too scary to empty, but I'm thinking that's what really needs to happen. Dump the whole thing out on the ground, stir it around (ever hear about "I wouldn't touch that with a 10' pole" ? now is when you need that 10' pole! :) ). A lot of the bugs will escape out of it and everything will compost better.

Agree with Applestar, except that really by volume you need well more than half browns. That sounds like another problem with what you were doing. If you were just putting in kitchen scraps and garden remnants, it was probably almost all "greens." So you need to add sawdust, wood chips, torn up cardboard, shredded paper, etc to balance it out. That will be easy to do if you have it dumped out and are stirring it up.

If you really can't bring your self to do that, the next best thing would be to take some kind of sharp tool and make a bunch of air holes in the sides and lid of your bin for air circulation. Throw in some browns and stir or if the bin is small enough that you can, just turn/ roll/ rotate/ tumble the bin a few times.

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If you can't dump or stab some holes in it you can always let it be and start on a new one. The bugs will eventually gobble up all the food and reduce the volume down to a third. That can then be added to your new, and hopefully working compost. The bugs won't turn it into compost, but will reduce it down drastically and it's a good soil additive, similar to worm castings, but not as good.
Home Gardener from Austin, TX; by way of Iowa.

aqaukitty
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Firstly can i just say, this site rocks! Thanks for all the replies! I had read through the sticky notes on Brown and Green waste and had already worked out that I needed brown waste--thanks for confirming that and the need for AIR!!! (I thought the few little holes in the side would be enough, guess not ...!) And I think my husband and I will manage to move the bin and dump it onto the place in the garden where any number of Hadedas (it's an Ibis that drives us all mad with it's call but eats any number of bugs) can pick out all the huge crawlies. Then will try again OUTSIDE the bin...thank you so very much for all the exact info and help.
Learning loads from the forums!
PS...yes the creepy crawlies here are much different and if they don't bite, kill or maim they lay their eggs under your skin and their young live off your flesh....!!!

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And I worry aout the mosquitoes... but I did grow up in Lyme CT (yep, THAT Lyme), so we all have our insects to worry about...

AK, I like your new plan; letting the birds take care of your insect issue seems a good idea, and in the picking they will further break up your pile. Then rake it all up and start it again, and this time remember browns with your greens, and turn it once and a while. They even make tools to poke hole in compost heaps [url=https://www.gardeners.com/Compost-Aerator/20708,33-367,default,cp.html]like this one[/url]... use this model my own self...

HG
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applestar
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Ah, I have a cousin to that model compost stirrer that is, at the moment, frozen to the ground (I left it leaning against the edge of the bin and it fell over in a storm). :roll: ... not a problem for YOU, I'm sure, aqaukitty! :lol:

Good luck with your compost pile! :wink:

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Short of fancy tools, my lazy gardener no-turn compost pile, I just use a pointed stick to punch holes down into the pile now and then for extra air circulation -- but not now, it's too frozen.

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Aquakitty, what is your water situation and humidity?

Compost is a pretty old word, and doesn't necessarily mean exposing things to air. It mostly implies mashing together some stuff (very technical, eh?). In french, apple sauce is called apple compost.

These days, composting (in North America) almost always refers to very lightly mashing the right stuff together, then providing water, air, and enough heat (never mind the heat people don't notice unless they live in cold places).

If you can't do that for some reason, there are anaerobic (without air) methods of preparing scraps for direct burial. Think sauerkraut. Some call it ensilage, some say bokashi, some say potato, some call it acid fermentation. The point is you can exclude insects, pathogens, odors, and all that. It can be done with purchased bacterial (microbial) cultures, or with organisms you can trap from your own environment. The big advantage is, you can do meat, cheese, oil, cooked food, spicy food, whatever you want. For the same reason yogurt is not dangerous, properly fermented meat and cheese is safe.

the last method I can think of is invertebrate assisted. Worms like african nightcrawlers (hot places), red wigglers (temperate places), and european nightcrawlers (dark, european looking places?) will gobble up your garbage and leave you with worm castings, the best stuff on earth. They need air too. The big advantage here is that the worms do all the work for you. No turning, no nothing. The disadvantage, at least with red wigglers, is the limited list of foods. I use red wigglers, but I feed them fermented food almost exclusively. It seems less interesting to flies, but the wigglers love it. They also cease to be picky once food is fermented. Meat, cheese, whatever, they gobble it down and copulate next to it.

Since you have maggots, you might also put them to work, depending on the species. I know some people who keep black soldier fly larvae (north america), and claim they go through monumental amounts of trash. Of course, they are flying off with all those nutrients when they become flies , so to use this effectively you probably need some chickens to eat the maggots to make the very nutritious (omega -3's from all those greens the maggot ate) chicken meat, eggs and poo (which you can ferment).


just thought you should have some options since you are getting started. from this list you should be able to hit the google (or the baichu?) and start doing one or more of these techniques to accomplish your goals. Lots of info appears to be right here as well. When I'm on the prowl like you are, I like to use google to do a site search instead of going through the forum search. try [search terms] site:www.helpfulgardener.com

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Nice post toil... spot on about the flies; I too have heard this. ANd I think we have a lot to learn about anaerobic digestion (not really composting per se; that word does denote oxygen, IMO, and that of the USCC). And we don't suggest meat and cheese as compost foods, even for worms. Too easy to go wrong there for the average gardener...

From what I hear, S.A. is a lot like Cali or the Med., so moisture is likely one of the greatest issues for AK.

HG
Last edited by The Helpful Gardener on Wed Jan 13, 2010 11:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Scott Reil

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thanks for the compliment! newbies love those.

yeah, I do think the now accepted definition of compost, in my english, is aerobic and for some thermo-whatsit. I think no matter what you do, there is some guy saying it's not really compost. I wanted to give a sense of mutation rather than absolute definition, because in some parts the usage can vary. The OP mentioned being in Africa, and since French is my maternal language and quite common there, I thought we should be aware of the etymology and any false-cognate issues. Sometimes different cultures have variations on the same language. Also, in some cultures anaerobic "composting" is more common, I am told esp. in asia. I do tend to refer to my "trash pickles" as "bokashi compost", because it can function in a similar way. It's functional, if not literal compost. And it keeps me from having to explain too much every time.

In any case I do think that with an international community, it's best to be more descriptive with terms, e.g. aerobic compost, thermo-whatsit compost, actively aerated compost tea. It takes just a bit more time to say, but says so much more than twice as much.

For the worms, I agree, and would like to stress that I NEVER, and no home composter should ever, put raw or cooked meat directly in the worm bin or compost pile. I do throw such things in the bokashi bin (which is not radical or unusual by any means - kind of the whole point of getting the bokashi bin is to "compost" meat and cooked foods). In bokashi, pathogens have a snowball's chance in hell (the pH can go below 3, and facultative anaerobes are good at elbowing out the competition). Once it is done pickling, it is exceedingly safe to bury around veggies (not too close, it cooks too fast), and I daresay, it's safe to give to worms. Just watch out for heat - pound for pound it's more like manure than veggie scraps. It's also safe for livestock, although all the rules against feeding meat to ruminants would apply; bokashi can't kill prions. But apparently, chickens and pigs have less stinky poo when fed bokashi. I am not sure if it's true, and I have noticed that EM (a brand of mother culture) promoters have more enthusiasm than facts. However I do put the liquid culture in dog water, and gargle with it. Cleans the breath right up!

(EDIT: doh! Johanessburg. I didn't look at the profile. silly newbie. well i wrote all that bit about french, I'm not taking it down! What is compost in Afrikaans or other local languages?))

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Bokashi=pickling. I can see the inference. Lactobacillus reaction makes with the sour (bokashi can smell more than a bit sour too.)Or Kim chee or saurkraut; all apt comparisons. Anaerobic conditions with facultative anaerobes is pretty much the same if we are talking effective microbes or kosher half-sours...and have you tried the corned beef here? To die for... and the herring? You'll plotz... anyway, I like, I like... pickling is good. And how else you gonna preserve a salam or a pepperon? Fugeddaboutit :lol:

I have just added a touch of cake yeast to my sourdough starter, sacriledge among the true sourdough cognscentii, it's true, but it just wasn't jumping up. What aerobes like yeast can do is truly amazing, a magical trick of sort. My somewhat stalled starter (I think it was warmth more than anything) had a nice sour smell (I had added yogurt for a controlled Lactobacillus culture, but nothing else) but there was no rising. So about 4 hours back I mixed a cup of my sour starter to a like cup of flour and half that of water, with a half teaspoon of cake yeast mixed in. It came to exactly the 250 ml mark on the canning jar I use. :)

In that four hours my starter size has tripled. The fungii have built the ingredients on hand to 750 ml, creating a matrix of strands that open and puff the structure, changing carbs into gluten. It's still pretty tight now but as the food sources wane and it begins to collapse, the bacteria, the lactobacillus will start to pick up again. But we have CO2 gassing off and alcohol building to the point where you have to pour it off ocasionally (called hooch in sourdough circles), chemical processes triggered and sustained by naturally occuring soil organisms. We are never so close to true organic symbiosis as when we bake bread or brew beer. The peak of the food chain meeting with the lowest rung on equal terms, bacteria and fungii working together with me, and I shall have sourdoughbread!

Sorry; got carried away. :oops: Anyway I have decided to do boules on the pizza stone; I'll let you know how it turns out. :wink:

All these same exact functions and traits can be brought to soil or compost in exactly the same manner. AK went heavy on the bacterial side, and nature took it's course. Had she added fungii (like my yeast addition, but mycorhizae, and naturally occuring soil fungii from S.A. for AK) and the browns (whole wheat in my starter, but higher carbon items like sawdust, paper, or wood mulch for compost) instead of just white flour and lactobacillus (wait that's my starter, but it could just as easily be too many greens and...lactobacillus is the most common bacteria on the planet, so yeah, probably the exact same genus of bacteria!), well, her compost wouldn't have stalled just like my starter. EXACTLY like my starter. Oh, well at least I get to eat my teaching aids... :lol:

No eating your compost AK, but like my starter, your compost will be even better when you add your browns. And if you aren't sure about adding a fungal side, you could do worse that just starting with the same old yeast that I did. Where do you think it came from in the first place? ALL our biological food partner's were born of compost amd soil, and where would we be without any one of them?

Thermophilic organisms are important if you want fast composting, but really hot composting isn't so kind to many fungii; my yeast start to bite it in wholesale quantity above 90F If we want open airy soil (250 ml to 750ml!), we want fungal soil. Aerobic bacteria most effective for nitrogen cycling, but anaerobes (especially facultative types) have benefits too (like pickles and saurkraut). I don't think we should get married to any one set of organisms, inputs or methods. Nature provides all these in most places on the planet and I think there are likely optimal uses for all types of composting and natural digestion. :mrgreen:

HG
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:lol: Sounds like your having fun, HG! :lol:
I can't do sourdough this time of the year because no where in the house is warm enough. In fact, I'll have to rig something for the EM culture I'm going to experiment with, but it'll be in small batches -- I'm already looking at thermal travel mug, Igloo water jug, etc. I'll think of something. :wink: I have the feeling I might side step into making some home made yogurt as well as the cultivation processes are looking rather similar.

I'm waving my hands in front of my face, imagining the glorious smells of your sourdough and bread wafting my way. :>

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bread is interesting, I just lack the discipline. It takes a certain kind of mind... not a sloppy one like mine. The only food I have fermented is a japanese thing called nuka zuke (rice bran pickles). It uses bacteria and yeast from your hands. This also requires daily attention, and I am too scatterbrained. Bread people always amaze me. You are touched by Ceres.

Let's not forget, bacteria can't cycle much of anything on their own. They are mostly takers, not givers. Protozoa do the taking via predation, and the mineralization of N locked inside proteins and such. To make sure you have everything, go for some nice walks and look for some old trees. Grab some of that soil, no much. Then maybe some areas where wild grasses hang out. Just chuck it in! You can't beat your local organisms for compost inoculant.

In well aerated, super healthy, tomato perfect soil, it is indeed a game slightly dominated by fungi and to a lesser extent aerobes, but let's not forget the anaerobes and facultative anaerobes are still vital. They are the preferred food of ciliates (flagellates prefer aerobes, and amoebae look too oafish for me to care), and having the right kind doing the right stuff is no minor part of balanced soil. Just being around and occupying areas the bad guys haunt is a service, but they are also humus makers and all around personable little critters. We tend to focus on the biggest players, and forget these guys.


I think I may be part dog, because my wife complains about the bokashi juice smell stinking up the house when I drain the bucket, but I always stick my nose in it like i am nosing a sauvignon. Yum!


As for getting close to symbiosis in bread baking, I have to disagree! Symbiotic lactic acid bacteria allow you to digest tonight's dinner, not be covered in yeast infections, produce certain vitamins, and who knows what else. You can't get close to symbiosis because you ARE symbiotic. You are not alone!

the sourdough pizza boules sound lie the best idea ever. Have you attempted Roman pizza? It is a whole different thing, very simple, and the bread can really be appreciated.

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Toil, I've been knocking out some stellar za lately; you should have been here for the bacon/potato/white sauce a few weeks back. And I made a sausage number for Mom two weeks ago that she said ruined all other pizza for her. I gotta ring my own bell here; I am getting pretty good... but mine's more Napolitano than Roma (once had pizza from a two thousand year old oven just outside Naples; we ate it outside on the terrazzo while the moon rose behind Vesuvius. It remains my touchstone moment for judging all pizza...)

But back to mold, slime and bacteria! :P

Nitrogen cycling is too a bacterial game! Nitrosomonas do the ammonia to nitrite thing and nitrobacters do the nitrite to nitrate lifting, least how I learned it. And at a whopping five to one C/N ratio, they are hugely intense in nitrogen their own little selves! Feed them to some protozoa (with a 30:1 C/N) and we get some pretty significant nitrogen release, especially when you consider the average amoeba chows down about 10000 bacteria a day (10000 parts of nitrogen with only every sixth part going into the amoeba means 8334 parts into the poop loop :!: ) And considering your average teaspoon of soil has tens of thousands of amoebas and millions upon millions of bacteria... and that's just ONE of the protozoa; we didn't even talk about flagellates and cilliates yet... I'm just sayin, is all... sure bacteria are wicked stingy with the Big N, but we haf waysss of making nitrogen available... :twisted:

Totally with you on the natural innoculant; everyone should take note. The best biology for your area is the biology from your area. No exceptions. Struth!

And I hear you on the symbiotic thing; we are each a walking farm for biological entities. I think if most people knew the extent that they are populated by bacteria, fungii, mites, and such, they would likely boil themselves. And I know some who probably should... I'm just sayin' , is all :lol: Still I find myself more enamored of the the symbiotic relationship when they are making food for me and not the other way around, but that's being speciocentric, I know... :lol: Well sometimes the home team should win, right?

HG
Scott Reil

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hmmm good point, I should have said something like "you need all the players present", instead of poo-pooing bacteria/archea. They are by far the greatest biomass of any ecosystem I can think of. Without them nothing happens.

Didn't know about those bacteria you mentioned. I only learned that mineralization of N locked in bacteria (yeah, there is more to life, I know) happens through predation. I just assumed that's how everything else moved around that didn't involve fungi. I am not surprised to learn there is more to it than that. I seem to learn that a lot. And I like it that way!

Luckily, we are going to read "teaming with microbes" together and discussing the topics, and learning a compost load. AK, that would probably be right up your alley and give you a great base to start your new microbial journey. I pre-ordered on Amazon.

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As did I, toil. Lookinfg forward to the discussion... :D

Toil, you teach me things; I teach you things. Together we learn. Bacteria does things, fungus does things; together they make soil. Nature operates best in small cycles that build into bigger loops, with each circle forming the links of a greater chain, to connect and loop into still greater chains.

May it ever be so. May AK always have compost and hadedas to back her up, and may we all someday recognize the great chain our little loops of family, town, and country are part of. We are greater as a whole than as parts, whether we talk compost, ecosystems or humanity... :mrgreen:

HG
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The Helpful Gardener wrote: And I hear you on the symbiotic thing; we are each a walking farm for biological entities. I think if most people knew the extent that they are populated by bacteria, fungii, mites, and such, they would likely boil themselves.
HG
Yup... when I first read that there are teeny-tiny mites that live in the follicles of your eyelashes, I wanted to tear my eyelashes out! Creepy! but it is the way of the world. If there is habitat, there are creatures that live in it, whether 20,000 leagues under the sea or in volcano vents or eyelash follicles or whatever.

Thanks for the fascinating discussion!

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And now for something completely different

..

aquakitty

Call me whacky but I think all the bugs are a good sign. The only thing worse than no bugs would be a bunch of dead bugs. Bugs in the bin means it's living and that's what your bio-remediation or compost bin should be all about.

Brush up on some good solid easy to follow basics on composting:
https://www.compostinfo.com/

That site is in Florida which, at least in latitude, isn't too far removed from where you are. East of the Kalahari and the confluence of the Atlantic and the Indian oceans a bit farther south. I'm sure there are some curious twists of climate all over the place where you are.

Whether you are prepared to dump and start all over or ready to try and feed some maybe dry woody stuff in there, it's not a major disaster. You could just let it sit and after a while, maybe a long while, you'll have something to add to the garden. Next time will be better.

How big is the bin? What exactly to you throw in there and how much? How much water went into the equation. Does it look very wet? Does it smell like a sewer? How long have things been cooking? You'll need to provide more data for more help. Is the climate dry or wet?

Happy summer

to sense

..

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