Question: Does Your Compost Pile Smell?

comments (7) December 31st, 2010

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ChrisMcLaughlin Chris McLaughlin, contributor
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A well-balanced compost pile doesnt smell.
Photo by vinzca under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.Click To Enlarge

A well-balanced compost pile doesn't smell.

Photo by vinzca under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.


Answer: It shouldn't. Okay, the more accurate answer is that it might smell if something is out of balance in there.

Chances are that the problem lies in one of three places:

  • Did you add the wrong food stuffs like meat, fish, dairy, eggs, or grease? If it’s possible to remove these items, do so; otherwise, simply turn the smelly stuff into the pile and cover it with organic material.
  • Did you add a thick pile of grass clippings the last time you mowed your lawn? If so, get some carbon sources like leaves or newspaper and mix them into the wet grass clumps.
  • Is the pile sitting in an area that gathers all the rain/water run-off? If your pile is a wet, soggy mess, then you have too much water or greens (nitrogen) in there. The first thing you need to do in this case is aerate the pile by turning it and letting it get some oxygen. You probably need to add some browns (carbon), as well. Here’s where newspaper, wood chips, or cardboard can save the day. And back off on adding water for a while.

If you notice that there are some anaerobic pockets (areas that are heavily wet and not getting air) in your compost pile, simply mix them up and add some browns. If the pockets seem past the point where you want to deal with them, you can remove them from the pile.

This is yet another reason that composting is one of my favorite aspects of gardening - they're so utterly adjustable. Compost piles always have an easy fix.

Learn more about composting...


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Comments (7)

KathiGillis writes: OMG....i really against composed pile smell so please try to clean your all around environment..
Posted: 2:25 am on September 3rd
SallyHanson writes: nice share information
Posted: 2:18 am on August 30th
ammyclark writes: I was looking for whole internet for this information but nothing helped me. But this article did. Thanks mate.
Posted: 7:24 am on August 23rd
PaulMelody writes: nice and thanks for share
Posted: 3:39 am on August 5th
vincentclark writes: Great post
Posted: 12:42 am on August 2nd
ChrisMcLaughlin writes: Jada - wonderful! I think it's easier to keep the worm bins from getting smelly as opposed to the larger outdoor compost piles (as long as you don't feed the worms too much). Probably because the outdoor ones are further from the house and not tended to as often.

I'm so thrilled that you're having a great time with your worms (we call ours "Freds"!
Posted: 6:21 pm on December 31st
JadaE writes: I've been vermicomposting for 2 weeks now, and I am just amazed that there is NO smell! In fact, when I open the bin to add some scraps and spray the newspaper, the bin smells like topsoil. Good, fresh topsoil! YEAH! I'm keeping the squirmy wormies in the basement, right in our playroom/gardening room, with no fear of running anybody out!

My compost tumbler outside has also been smell free, thanks to the good info on this website!
Posted: 2:47 pm on December 31st
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