the colonel
Newly Registered
Posts: 2
Joined: Fri Aug 01, 2008 7:51 pm

Old Gross Compost still good to use?

Hey, new member and first time poster. Apologies if this question has been answered but I couldn't find it.

I have a good open compost pile in my partly shaded driveway. It has created really great compost. That is not the problem.

I also have older compost that was forgotten about (I'm not proud of it) and it has been sitting in these two restaurant size (5 gallons) plastic soy sauce containers for almost a year. It smells bad and is very moist. The tops were off at times and it was closed at other times. Is this dangerous to use due to the anaerobic pathogens? Can it be dried out on a tarp and then used later?

Many thanks for any and all advice!

cynthia_h
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 7501
Joined: Tue May 06, 2008 11:02 pm
Location: El Cerrito, CA

If you're unsure about the current condition of the "old, gross" compost but feel that the original ingredients were sound, why not just add the "old, gross" stuff to your working pile?

That way, the moisture in the old stuff will average out with whatever is in your working pile as well as adding to the volume, AND be converted into a confidence-inspiring aerobic soil addendum.

Cynthia H.
USDA Zone 9, Sunset Zone 17

cynthia_h
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 7501
Joined: Tue May 06, 2008 11:02 pm
Location: El Cerrito, CA

Oops! :oops: Welcome to The Helpful Gardener. :)

Cynthia

the colonel
Newly Registered
Posts: 2
Joined: Fri Aug 01, 2008 7:51 pm

I just wasn't sure if that was a good idea...after reading about "anaerobic pathogens". I have no clue how those pathogens work or even if it applies in this instance so I figured I'd search out some expert advice before doing anything with it.

That particular batch of compost is actually from three (or more) seasons of leaves in the corners of the driveway so I guess it's okay. I never added anything to it. There was just this huge bit of rich soil underneath with a ton of earthworms so I put it aside to add to my compost pile later. That 'later' ending up becoming quite a while!

I really appreciate your advice! Thank so much for taking the time.

cynthia_h
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 7501
Joined: Tue May 06, 2008 11:02 pm
Location: El Cerrito, CA

OK. Now I have a better understanding of your concern.

The difference between aerobic and anaerobic forms of life is that the ANaerobes flourish in the absence of oxygen, while the AEROBES require oxygen for survival.

Thus, putting anaerobic bacteria (pathogens?) into an aerobic compost pile will require them to react with oxygen, something they really cannot do. So they will die. Especially if you have a warm to hot pile. (NOTE: I am not a soil chemist, but this weekend plan to dump a bin of anaerobic compost, which was a deliberate experiment, into my aerobic BioStack bin before ever using it on my plants.)

Do you have any specific "pathogens" in mind? I.e., has anyone given you a specific name or names of anaerobic bacteria which might be present?

Cynthia

cynthia_h
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 7501
Joined: Tue May 06, 2008 11:02 pm
Location: El Cerrito, CA

Here's the (very rough) chemical outline of what will happen:

methane + oxygen => carbon dioxide + water

CH4 + 2(O2) => CO2 + 2(H2O)

Cynthia

petalfuzz
Green Thumb
Posts: 632
Joined: Sat May 31, 2008 7:37 pm

I'd be weary of using compost that was nasty smelling. If there's a chance of putting disease into the garden instead of beneficial nutrients, I'd skip it.

But if you add it to your current pile (maybe in increments) and that pile heats up and kills any disease, (and the smell goes away) then I'd probably use it in part of the garden as an experiment.

Return to “Composting Forum”