Cincinnati
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Pre-Compost of Ingredients

Our 1 gallon kitchen compost bucket was always overflowing. And It attracted fruit flies in less than an hour from adding fruit and veggie scraps. So I placed a 5 gallon bucket outside the back door. We added all our waste to it. By the time I emptied it into the composter, I discovered loads of Maggots. I knew they were in there, But thought it beneficial to use this liquid to moisten my compost batch of leaves, grass, etc. I also thought the heat would kill them.

It's been about a week. I have steam rising form the tumbler, but when I rotate it for aeration, and open the door, the maggots scurry to bury into the pile.I have about a week to go for the batch to finish. So I don't want to add more browns at this point. Any suggestions?

Is it better to throw the food scraps onto my "pre-compost pile" (a staging area for ingredients to go into my composter when the current batch finishes) then use water to wet the compost ingredients, or is it better to use the liquid off rotting fruits and veggies to accomplish this even at the expense of maggots?

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applestar
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Over the years, I've reached the conclusion that two or more composters (or piles) is the way to go. While one is "cooking" add to 2nd.

I can't take the odor of rot/mold so I don't use enclosed/watertight compost pail, etc. I start with an open brown paper bag with egg carton or fast food beverage carrier on the bottom, then double and sometimes triple bag as I add more, usually eventually ending with paper bag inside plastic bag. This keeps everything relatively dry and odor-free, but the minute I detect odor or fruitfly sign, it goes out to the compost piles. (I use open piles inhabited by a fair complement of macro-organisms -- centipedes, spiders, ground beetles, etc.-- so I think once put outside, the fruit flies have less chance of survival.

For watering, I keep a tub of water out there with feeder goldfish to control mosquitoes, and I add the green water to the compost pile as needed.

tomc
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Ok its September and you have maggots. Thank them at arms length.

If you want a drier compost you will have to go to a pallet sided or chicken wire sided pile.
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cynthia_h
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I suggest adding browns to the pre-compost pile. This will help balance out the nitrogen (odor) ingredients and reduce some of that liquid, too.

Many of our members have reported difficulty with tumblers, just like you're experiencing: wet stuff inside; wet stuff outside waiting to go in, etc.

The "maggots" may be immature Black Soldier Flies, actually a helpful ally in making compost. I'll be "back" with a link to a thread from a couple years ago about BSF maggots/larvae. Just be sure you aren't eating anything you like when you read the article. (I was reading it in a newspaper while eating breakfast; talk about having no warning! :shock: )

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cynthia_h
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[url=https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=48205&highlight=maggots+compost#48205]Found the discussion[/url]. It was a little while further back than I had remembered, but that just shows how...ah...strong an impression it made at the time! :lol:

Black Soldier Flies. It's of course possible that the critters you've seen in your compost are from another source altogether, but the circumstantial evidence--food-rich source, warm climate--suggests BSF.

Cynthia

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Thanks for your replies. I need to clarify my original Post. What I had was basically a "slop bucket" into which I threw all organic scraps (fruits, veggie, egg shells, seafood shells, etc). Maggots appeared in the bucket well before I added this to my compost pile. I have been making compost for two years. I have never had maggots in my composter.

When I started a fresh batch of compost, I added mulched dry leaves, fresh grass, garden clippings, mulched dried corn stalks, old compost, and bagged compost from Lowes. For moisture, I dumped the bucket of organic scraps from the kitchen into the composter as well. There were a couple of gallons of liquid in that bucket along with a couple more gallons of non-decomposed solids plus a hundred or more maggots.

treehopper
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I would suggest a small compost pile-let the "slop bucket" go...get a pitchfork, and once a day (in the evening) take the days collection to the pile. Make a volcano-like crater, deposit the goods in the center, cover with a couple forkfuls of the dry perimeter "browns" and you're good to go. Every 10 days to 2 weeks, turn the whole pile. If you close your eyes and take a sniff and think you're in a dairy barn, you're doing it right!
I started a compost pile, because I gardened. Now I find myself gardening, so I have someplace for my compost!!

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rainbowgardener
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I keep a tightly closed compost bucket in the kitchen for scraps. As long as you don't open it, it doesn't smell. It usually doesn't get bad for several days in the summer and a week or so in winter. It doesn't get maggots because no flies can get in to lay eggs.

Once a week, I dump it on to the compost pile and cover with greens and browns, weeds, leaves, etc.

I have two compost piles. One is adding-working. The other is finishing-using. I don't do a whole lot of turning my pile, but every couple months or so I turn it over. Put the top half of the pile down to where all the earthworms are to be the bottom of the new adding-working pile. The bottom half of the old pile becomes the new finishing-using pile. If it isn't all quite finished, it finishes up very quickly exposed to air and stirred around.
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treehopper
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two piles for sure, one to feed-the other to "finish"...if you can work the pile into the garden vicinity, water when you water the garden, and it happens much faster.
Last edited by treehopper on Mon Sep 03, 2012 1:57 am, edited 1 time in total.
I started a compost pile, because I gardened. Now I find myself gardening, so I have someplace for my compost!!

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applestar
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I'm confused by the clarification, but I'll try to explain myself more too.:wink:

So my recommendation for the future is to try to have two composers rather than just one. If you can't/don't want to have open pile as second "composter" as the least expensive solution, get a 2nd unit of what you want to use. (Heh, sounds like we're all saying it. can I say I actually prefer to have THREE? Adding, Cooking, and Finished. :())

I feel that ground contact, open pile allows the most diversity of micro and macro organisms in the compost piles which then tend to better balance and regulate themselves including sudden influx of maggots, etc. -- that was what I meant in the previous post.

Several people have proposed different methods of collection and schedule for adding to the composter/pile.

I'm not sure why you think your current compost will be finished in a week. Doesn't the large population of maggots suggest that the contents are somewhat more damp than ideal? I don't think I see any obvious maggots by the time my compost is finished or nearly finished -- pillbugs, saw bugs, centipedes, millipedes and earthworms for the most part, some wood lice and spiders, to name the most prevalent visible denizens. -- so adding some more leaves or shredded paper -- browns -- may help with the maggot situation as suggested and in fact help create a better composting process even if it takes a little longer than what you hoped for.

Also, as Cynthia mentioned, these may be "good" maggots. But I don't know that much about what conditions they favor.

rot
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What is really the problem?

..
Unless there are too many flies, I don't see maggots being a problem. It would appear the maggots are doing the job the worms would otherwise do.

If the flies become a problem, close up the slop buckets and add dry stuff and so on.

to sense
..

tomc
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I used a colander to let excess fluid drain off of kitchen waste.

I added extra holes to my compost tumbler.

I would keep the access port in 'down' position when tumbler was at rest (to facilitate draining).

I would add dry browns when ever things got too goopy, which was just about constantly.

IMO compost tumblers were never, ever adaquate to my need. If I had to have a store boughten composter it would be a bank of tower or bank of three pallet sided bins.

One to fill, one to cook, one empty.
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Halfway
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Totally agree with applestar! Two piles at a minimum, three for the "rotator" bin.

Much easier to keep moist as needed. Much easier to dry if it gets too wet. Easier to aerate.
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smellyrose
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I keep a small, lidded container in the kitchen for food scraps, and I take it out to the compost tumbler every day or every other day, when it's full.

I have been composting for about a year now and I just added my third tumbler! Two tumblers was ok, however I had to empty and store the finished compost when the 2nd one filled up. Now I have a great set up, 1 is finished, 1 is cooking, 1 is being filled.

I am happy with the small tumblers. I give them a spin and poke around to mix the contents and monitor progress every 1-2 days. I'm using small ones because I want to able to turn and move them myself, even when they are nearly full. One thing I have enjoyed about setting up our garden and composting system is doing the research and experimenting to find out what works for my abilities, budget, space and time. It has been v helpful to read gardening forums and get input from friends as I go.

The best part is that our food and paper waste is significantly reduced, I am using our own compost rather than buying it. We're eating more healthfully and enjoying our home more with a beautiful garden to work in. :D

estorms
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Nobody wants to see maggots. If you don't have meat or dairy products in your compost pile, you shouldn't have any. Seafood shells will attract flies. I keep those in the freezer until I hear the garbage truck coming. My neighbors chickens visit my compost pile regularly, so I have never had to deal with an infestation. I keep a margarine tub on the counter and empty it every one or two days.

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applestar
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Are you saying you don't put seafood shells in the compost pile? :shock:

Since crustacean shells are composed of chitin and so are insect exoskeleton, my understanding is that crustacean compost is an excellent amendment for the garden for increasing microbiology that uses chitin as food source. (think exoskeleton disease for the bugs). Not only that, but the seafood is an excellent source of variety of important plant nutrients.

Lobster of Maine/Master Gardener brand (Gardener's Gold, BumperCrop) uses composted lobster remains in their bagged compost, garden soil amendment, and organic potting soil.

I turn my compost pile every time I have seafood shells (crustacean or shellfish) and bury them in the center/bottom of the pile. Once in a rare while, some critter will burrow into the pile and dig one or two shells out, but for the most part, I have not had any problems. :wink:

ACW
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Applestar are you talking clam ,mussel and oyster shells here .
If so ,how do you process them before composting.
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tomc
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Steamers or mussels just get tossed in bin. Little-necks or oysters get a good bashing with a hammer before being piled on.
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applestar
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I don't pre-process much at all. Seashells I just put them in whole. I don't worry about a little butter, olive oil, or salt used in cooking. Whatever bits left on the shells break down right away. If I screen the compost, they might go back in the pile several times. if I don't they go out in the garden eventually. Bivalves typically lose their hinges pretty quickly in the compost pile -- I don't think I've ever found myself putting hinged shells out in the garden.

Really old clam shells in the compost pile have had their calcium leached out and become brittle enough that they crunch when stepped on. Oyster shells are like rocks and they don't seem to break down as obviously. The teeth like opposable Lobster claws retain their shape for a long time though all the color is bleached out of them. I sometimes push these half shells and claws under tomato plants and pepper plants for a little extra calcium. Everything else gets broken down by the compost organisms and disappears.

I don't till, so hard objects like the shells and claws are not an issue for me as far as overall garden prep.

DH likes blue claw crabs, so those shells and guts go in at least once a month during the warm months -- and the extra nitrogen usually quickly heats up the compost pile -- and the rest of us like lobster so we have those remains to put in once in a while too -- usually in the cold months. Hm... Come to think of it, we're not buying fresh shrimp as often since our favorite seafood store closed down. So not as much shrimp shells of late -- maybe I should remedy that 8)

I also buy chicken grit (crushed oyster shells) at the feed store to use a soil additive and occasionally put some in the compost pile as well.

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