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Is My Compost bad

I bought a tumbler composter about a year ago. I started out with a lot of overripe citrus and have been adding leaves and kitchen waste since. My compost does not look like anything I've seen. It is soaking wet, the odor would make a skunk run the other way and the tumbler is home to a zillion tiny flyes. It's planting time and I'm scared to use it. Thanks Paul

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Super Green Thumb
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Too many "greens" and not enough "browns." Read the greens/browns sticky at the top of this Forum (section). For good composting you need a mixture of green (nitrogen heavy/soft/moist) materials and brown (carbon heavy/ hard/ dry) materials. Your leaves (if they are tree leaves, not green plant leaves) are browns, but all the rest is greens. You need probably more browns than greens by volume. Also it sounds like your compost tumbler wasn't well enough aerated. Good compost requires air/ oxygen. Anaerobic composting produces the kind of stinky, slimy mess you are talking about. Does your composter have plenty of air holes? Make sure they didn't get plugged up.

For now I would dump it all out into an outdoor compost pile, add a bunch more browns (the sticky will tell you what they are), mix it all together, and let it sit for a couple more months. If it weren't for the tiny flies (which at a guess are fungus gnats) you could put it back in the tumbler (making sure there's plenty of air access). But with the flies/ gnats, I think before you use the tumbler again, you need to wash it out with a bleach solution and then leave the hatch open to sun and air and let it dry out thoroughly.

Your compost can be rehabilitated!
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I read, that tumblers tend to get not enough oxygen, unless you turn them everyday. I never keep wet- dry ratio in my outside never-turned pile, and my compost is always cooking just fine and is not smelly. I do leave some braches in to keep air flowing better. That said, I don't wait untill my compost is store-looking to put it on my garden- as long as it is black and earthy - it goes on.

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Tumblers when I have used them, were never adaquate to my need. With that disclaimer out of the way. I will cheerfuly conceed that suburban gardeners may need the esthetic of a factory bult composter.

A wet stinky (and anoxic) tumblerfull needs: 1. more dry material added. 2. To be turned more often. 3. When resting turned so that the loading port is in the down possition to facilitate extra water to drain out.

Perhaps next time, rather than a tumbler, you might look over a tower-collumnar composter. its open bottom aides fluid draining off, and more nearly behaves like a compost bin.
Last edited by tomc on Thu May 26, 2011 1:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Greener Thumb
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too much wet, add lots of crumbled dry leaves, shredded newspaper. get it dried up and loosened up.
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I thought the whole point of the tumbler is that you turn it everyday. That said you can put it the garden buy digging a trench and putting the compost in and putting soil on top or putting it in a heap and add dry material dead brown leaves, shredded paper, straw or hay.

When making compost you generally try and make layers wet and dry. Others wise you get a wet mess. My husband can be pretty good at making wet mess compost :)

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