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Doctor Compost

Welcome to Doctor Compost's interactive surgery. Use this feature to diagnose and cure your composting problems. Simply answer the following questions by clicking on the most appropriate answer.

What is the nature of your problem?

My composting isn't working.

There are unwanted creatures in/around my compost bin/heap.

I don't know what to do with weeds/diseased plants.

There aren't enough worms in my compost bin/heap.
What's wrong with your compost?

Nothing's happening

My compost is too dry

My compost smells bad.

My compost is wet/slimy.

My compost won't heat up.
There are unwanted creatures in/around my compost bin/heap...

Most of the creatures that live in and around compost bins help produce good quality compost. Insect populations in Britain appear to be declining. A lot of birds feed on insects, so making compost can help maintain bird populations.

Most unwanted insects can be discouraged or prevented - you should never use pesticides or other poisons in / around your compost as you will end up killing off many of the vital micro-organisms in the process.

Which creature are you concerned about?

Ants

Bluebottles or maggots

Centipedes

Fruit flies

Fungi

Spiders

Slugs or snails

Vermin (e.g. rats)

Woodlice
I don't know what to do with weeds/diseased plants...

You should not put diseased plants in your compost unless you are carrying out successful hot composting.

Which sort of weeds do you have?

Perennials (the sort that come back every year e.g. dandelions)

Annuals (the sort that don't come every year e.g. rosebay willow herb)
There aren't enough worms in my compost bin/heap...

Worms can take some time to establish colonies in your compost. To encourage them, make sure that you leave the bottom layer of the compost in your heap / bin for at least a year or until a successful worm colony has been established.

Thank you for visiting Doctor Compost. We hope you have found a cure for your complaint.

If you have any comments, or would like to share your composting tips, please leave a message on our Forum.
Nothing's happening with my compost (it won't heat up)...

When you look at your compost bin/heap, can you see a lot of any of the following materials?
  • Branches or other woody materials
  • Cardboard
  • Leaves
  • Paper
  • Pine needles
  • Sawdust or wood shavings
Yes

No
My compost is too dry...

When you look at your compost bin/heap, can you see a lot of any of the following materials?
  • Branches or other woody materials
  • Cardboard
  • Leaves
  • Paper
  • Pine needles
  • Sawdust or wood shavings
Yes

No
My compost is wet/slimy/smelly...

When you look at the compost, can you see a lot of any of the following materials?
  • Coffee grounds or tea bags/leaves
  • Fruit or veg waste
  • Grass
  • Plants or plant clippings
Yes

No
Ants

Ants may occasionally set up a colony within a compost bin. They do not harm the composting process and may in fact help by creating tunnels in the soil. These tunnels are important in helping air to circulate within the compost bin.

Ants can sometimes be found in compost bins that have become too dry, so you should check that your compost bin is moist. For information on how to check the moisture level of your compost, click here.
Bluebottles or maggots

The occasional blue bottle does not present a cause for concern however the presence of larger numbers of blue bottles or maggots would indicate that meat or fish has been added to the compost bin. If large numbers of blue bottles do occur it is recommended that the items attracting the blue bottles should be covered with decomposed compost and placed in the centre of the compost bin.

Thank you for visiting Doctor Compost. We hope you have found a cure for your complaint.

If you have any comments, or would like to share your composting tips, please leave a message on our Forum.
Centipedes

Centipedes are often found in and around compost, as they often prey on insects. They will help keep the insect population down and are harmless. They regulate their own numbers, so you will never have very many of them.

Thank you for visiting Doctor Compost. We hope you have found a cure for your complaint.

If you have any comments, or would like to share your composting tips, please leave a message on our Forum.
Fruit Flies

Fruit flies are likely to be present at some point during the summer months where fruit and veg have been added to the compost bins. Whilst these flies are harmless they can easily be prevented by covering the top layer of fruit and vegetable waste with a thin layer of soil.

Thank you for visiting Doctor Compost. We hope you have found a cure for your complaint.

If you have any comments, or would like to share your composting tips, please leave a message on our Forum.
Fungi

Many types of fungi live in compost. They can sometimes be seen in the form of mushrooms. Fungi are an indicator of healthy compost. Please do not eat any of the fungi from your compost.

Thank you for visiting Doctor Compost. We hope you have found a cure for your complaint.

If you have any comments, or would like to share your composting tips, please leave a message on our Forum.
Spiders

Spiders sometimes live around compost bins. Spiders found in Britain are harmless and will help keep the insect population in control.

Thank you for visiting Doctor Compost. We hope you have found a cure for your complaint.

If you have any comments, or would like to share your composting tips, please leave a message on our Forum.
Slugs or snails

The compost bin is an ideal environment for slugs and snails; as a result they are unlikely to spread to other areas of the garden and are harmless within the compost bin.

Thank you for visiting Doctor Compost. We hope you have found a cure for your complaint.

If you have any comments, or would like to share your composting tips, please leave a message on our Forum.
Vermin (e.g. rats)

Compost bins will only become feeding stations for rats and mice where a vermin problem already exists.

Compost bins are rarely the cause vermin problems unless meat or fish have been added to the bin.

Rats and mice may be prevented from entering compost bins by placing fine wire meshing across the base of the compost bin (the usual point of entry).

Thank you for visiting Doctor Compost. We hope you have found a cure for your complaint.

If you have any comments, or would like to share your composting tips, please leave a message on our Forum.
Woodlice

Woodlice are excellent decomposers of organic materials and contribute towards the creation of good compost. They are harmless and should not be discouraged.

Thank you for visiting Doctor Compost. We hope you have found a cure for your complaint.

If you have any comments, or would like to share your composting tips, please leave a message on our Forum.
Perennial weeds

Perennial weeds can be placed in the compost heap/bin, but you should dry them out in the sun first, so that they are dead before they go on the compost. You should never put plants that have been killed with weed killers in the compost, as it will harm the helpful organisms that produce good compost.

Thank you for visiting Doctor Compost. We hope you have found a cure for your complaint.

If you have any comments, or would like to share your composting tips, please leave a message on our Forum.
Annual weeds

Annual weeds can be put in the compost bin/heap, as long as they are not diseased or poisonous. You should place them in the middle of the heap, where it is hottest so that their roots will be killed off.

Thank you for visiting Doctor Compost. We hope you have found a cure for your complaint.

If you have any comments, or would like to share your composting tips, please leave a message on our Forum.
Your compost has too much dry material in it.

Your compost has too much dry material in it. You can remedy this by adding in some moist materials such as fruit & vegetable waste or grass.

Once you have added in some moist materials, you should mix them in by turning your compost.

Leaves: If you have a lot of leaves in your garden, you can store them in a bin liner or under an old carpet and add them gradually into the compost bin / heap over the year.

Leaves can take up to 3 years to break down unless they are well mixed in with moist materials. However, they do contain valuable nutrients. You can dig small quantities of them straight into the soil, or you can make leaf mould.

Thank you for visiting Doctor Compost. We hope you have found a cure for your complaint.

If you have any comments, or would like to share your composting tips, please leave a message on our Forum.
Have you sited your compost heap/bin on concrete or other paving?

Yes

No
Siting your compost heap/bin on concrete or other paving

If you have sited your compost bin/heap on top of concrete or paving stones, the creatures that turn your waste into compost may not be able to get into it. You should move the compost heap/bin to a well-drained area of bare soil which, if possible, gets some sunlight.

If this is not possible, you could 'seed' your compost with a few handfuls of good garden soil or some ready-made compost.

You can also insulate your compost with some old carpet or fleece to help maintain the high temperature that the beneficial micro-organisms require.

Thank you for visiting Doctor Compost. We hope you have found a cure for your complaint.

If you have any comments, or would like to share your composting tips, please leave a message on our Forum.
Is it winter?

Yes

No
Composting in winter

In the winter, the composting process will slow down. If you are just starting, then be patient - once there is enough material in the heap/bin, things will get moving. You can help the process along by insulating your compost with an old carpet or fleeces. This will help to maintain the high temperature required by micro-organisms to break down your green waste.

Thank you for visiting Doctor Compost. We hope you have found a cure for your complaint.

If you have any comments, or would like to share your composting tips, please leave a message on our Forum.
Too much moist material in your compost

You have too much moist material in your compost. Add some dry material, such as leaves, shredded cardboard / paper, sawdust or wood shavings.

Thank you for visiting Doctor Compost. We hope you have found a cure for your complaint.

If you have any comments, or would like to share your composting tips, please leave a message on our Forum.
Is your compost heap/bin situated in an area where the soil does not drain well?

Yes

No
Water-logged compost

If the soil under your compost heap / bin does not drain well, the compost is liable to become water-logged. You can remedy this by adding some dry materials such as leaves, shredded cardboard or paper or sawdust or wood shavings on a regular basis. You should also turn your compost regularly to ensure that there is enough air in the mixture and that some of the moisture has a chance to evaporate.

Thank you for visiting Doctor Compost. We hope you have found a cure for your complaint.

If you have any comments, or would like to share your composting tips, please leave a message on our Forum.
Turning your compost

Turning your compost provides essential oxygen to the beneficial micro-organisms that live there. It also helps to prevent the compost from getting too water-logged. There are three main methods of aerating the compost:
  • If you have a compost heap or a bin with a wide mouth, you can thoroughly mix and turn your compost with a garden fork. Alternatively, you can turn all the compost out of the container, give it a good mix and put it all back in again.
  • If this is too difficult, you can simply bring the material in the middle of the heap / bin to the outside using a garden fork, and then move it back to the centre again.
  • If that is still too difficult, you can poke holes in the compost using a broom handle or thick stick. (You can also buy fancy turning tools at most garden centres to do the same job). Although this method is not as efficient, it will aerate the compost.
Thank you for visiting Doctor Compost. We hope you have found a cure for your complaint.

If you have any comments, or would like to share your composting tips, please leave a message on our Forum.
Add some water

Add some water to your compost heap and then turn it to ensure that air and moisture is thoroughly mixed in to your compost.

Thank you for visiting Doctor Compost. We hope you have found a cure for your complaint.

If you have any comments, or would like to share your composting tips, please leave a message on our Forum.
Checking the moisture level

To check the moisture level of your compost, pick up a handful and squeeze it - it should be moist and spongy, but no moisture should drip out of it when you squeeze it.

Is your compost too dry?

Yes

No
Ants

Ants may occur from time to time. If they are beginning to invade the house, then you should ensure that the floor and any counters are clean and free of crumbs as this will discourage them.

Thank you for visiting Doctor Compost. We hope you have found a cure for your complaint.

If you have any comments, or would like to share your composting tips, please leave a message on our Forum.


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