Composting: The Nose Knows

I am writing Composting: The Nose Knows because making compost is the one thing that so many people just don’t get at first. I think it is because the first thing a person wants to do when they decide to start composting is to keep their kitchen garbage out of the landfill. It is a noble purpose for sure, and (meat and oil free) kitchen garbage is an excellent addition to any compost pile. If you have grown up in the garden you will know the smell of properly working compost and what goes into it to achieve balance. If you haven’t done this before it takes just a little information and some practice, and you will be making nice compost in no time.

I set up a booth at the Downtown Fort Pierce Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings. I offer natural soil amendments, mulches and fertilizers for sale there including, worm teas, worm castings, alpaca and rabbit manures, small bags of compost as Compost Activator, and Blessings From the Bunny Bunker which are the scrapings from the rabbit cages, composed of pine flake, Timothy hay, rabbit manure, and in the winter lots of Coastal Hay (The Coastal Hay is piled in during cold weather so the rabbits have somewhere to burrow into for protection from the cold). Blessings (From The Bunny Bunker) are a phenomenal fruit tree mulch.. all of my fruit trees are thriving with rings of this mulch going around the tree on either side of the drip line, and Blessings are also a great carbonaceous compost additive. I say so because most people who tell me about their compost (problems) describe a smelly pile of slimy rotting vegetables.. THAT IS NOT COMPOST.

The compost that a gardener needs to make for future gardens is a mildly damp, heavy but aerobic (with air), earthy smelling mixture of nitrogen or green wastes, and brown or carbonaceous wastes. The smell is the sure sign. If it smells unpleasant it is not right, if it smells like the earth after rain it is working properly. If it has no odor it is probably too dry. The only thing a smelly pile of slimy rotting garbage needs to turn it into the earthy smelling compost we all desire is carbonaceous wastes. Lots of brown leaves, a sprinkle of saw dust, some old hay or straw, or some of the Blessings From The Bunny Bunker. I often throw Blessings into my compost piles.

Now I can say with absolute certainty that no matter what you put out there and in what concentrations it will eventually break down, all things decay and there are many paths to that same end however there is a reason for having the earthy smelling pile over the slimy garbage pile or the fermenting garbage pile. The organisms that are responsible for the breakdown of the earthy smelling aerobic compost are the very organisms you would desire for your garden soil. They will be the microbes that team up with your plants for nutrient exchanges, and optimum health. The organisms present in the foul smelling garbage pile are not the organisms you want to have in your garden soil. The organisms present in anaerobic rotting garbage are the same organisms that will rot off your seedlings, and their waste products are alcohols. Alcohols are not good for plants.

Balance is very easy to obtain. Even if you have bad smells and you are sure the wrong organisms are present, as soon as you carbon up your pile the smell will change, and that smell tells you what is happening. The beneficial compost organisms will quickly consume the organisms that made the foul smell, and the problem is eliminated that quickly..
A few months later when your compost is broken down and curing it will be the compost in which your plants will thrive.

So, don’t despair, stir in some carbonaceous wastes for that stinky pile, and if all else fails come see me at the Downtown Fort Pierce Farmers Market, and we’ll talk!