Dark, rich compost is perfect for gardening, but making compost can be surprisingly complex. There are plenty of things that can go wrong, like mold, but why does compost get moldy, and can you fix it? I have been composting and growing my own food since I was very young, so I’ve seen just about everything that can go wrong with compost. I’ll explain how compost works and help you troubleshoot mold and other common compost problems. When your garden gets the best food, so do you. Fortunately, composting isn’t that difficult once you understand how to troubleshoot the process. Avoiding mold and other problems is part of making great compost, and you’ll get better at it as you practice.
Why is my compost moldy? Your compost is moldy as a sign of proper decomposition. This is all part of the natural and beneficial process that creates the nutrient-rich compost you need for your garden, and you shouldn’t worry about it. Make sure you mix the mold properly and keep an eye out for other signs of trouble so you can handle them before you have any serious concerns.
Is it Safe to Have Mold In My Compost?
When you’re new to composting, a bit of mold can cause serious concerns, and it’s perfectly normal to ask why there’s mold in your compost. Fortunately, having moldy compost is not a problem. In fact, it is part of nature. When mold forms, it’s an indication that your compost is doing its biological duty.
However, if you get an excessive amount of mold, your compost is off balance and may need adjusting. Normally, just mixing it in is enough. Nevertheless, it’s also important to understand that you and the wildlife in your yard should not eat this mold. Unlike edible fungus, you or the small animals who doubtless check out the compost bin at every opportunity can become ill from eating mold. Once it gets added to the soil, your plants should have no issue with it, and it’s safe to eat the fruit, flowers, roots, seeds, and leaves of edible plants that have had some mold in their compost.
Grab a Compost Bin for Kitchen Counter from Amazon, and you’ll never miss out on food scraps that could feed your garden again. In addition to the durable metal bin, you get a years’ supply of carbon filters and biodegradable liners, plus a chart to help you figure out what you can add. Best of all, the retro stainless steel container will never leach chemicals into your compost. Get yours by clicking here.
Why Is My Compost White
White fungus-like growth on your compost is actually actinomycetes. While it might look similar to fungus, it’s actually a bacteria, but don’t worry. Having actinomycetes on your compost is a good sign that things are going as they should.
Compost is all about breaking down organic matter to make a healthy additive for your garden soil. You can do this with the help of worms, insects, and general decomposition. However, actinomycetes also help break down those plant pieces so that the nutrients stored inside are biologically available to your garden.
You may see something similar in large vegetarian animal manure such as horse and cow poop. This unique non-fungus needs oxygen and decomposing plant matter to survive and thrive. Resultantly, you get functional compost. All you need to do is mix the actinomycetes in normally.
You will typically see actinomycetes during the hot-stage of composting, but it is not exclusive to that stage. According to Garden Know-How, “The majority of these bacteria thrive in the hot stages of composting, but some are only thermotolerant and lurk around the cooler edges of your pile. These bacteria lack nuclei but grow multicellular filaments just like fungi. The appearance of the filaments is a bonus for better decomposition and a well-balanced compost situation.” In short, you want that white fungus-looking ‘stuff’ in your compost to break down woody material and tough cellulose.
Can You Tell if Compost is Bad
It might seem strange that you should want moldy compost. Although compost can go bad, it’s not usually the mold that is the problem. While all compost has a decaying odor, an excessive stink signifies that something has gone wrong. In this case, add some sawdust or other fine carbon material that will break down quickly.
There are other non-mold signs that something is very wrong in your compost bin. Fortunately, you can fix most of these issues by simply treating your compost right. We’ll get to that in a moment. First, let’s look at signs your compost is having problems.
The balance of microbes in your compost bin is primarily responsible for how fast things break down. When things aren’t breaking down at all, you may need to turn the compost over more often. Using a rotating barrel can help, but you can also do this manually with a pitchfork. If the pieces are larger, like sticks, you may need to break them down into smaller pieces before re-adding them to the pile.
Perhaps most alarmingly, a compost pile can catch fire. When you add too much green material and don’t balance it out and keep it moist, the nitrogen buildup can become problematic. The result can even be a fire. Make sure you have a good mix of brown and green organic materials and keep your compost moist but never soggy and sodden.
Is It Okay For Bugs To Get Into My Compost
Compost that has no bugs in it at all may not be healthy. Much like the mold and actinomycetes, you want bugs in your compost. These little insects are doing a crucial service for nature by helping the decomposition process.
If you see flies, worms, and other ‘creepy crawlies’ in and around your compost, relax. This is a sign that things are going well, and you have a balanced compost pile. Without these insects, your organic waste may not turn into the soil you need. They will digest some of the material in your bin, and what comes out the other end is perfect for growing a gorgeous garden.
When you need a convenient place to store your compost, a 246 Gallon Compost Bin by GeoBin is perfect. The ventilated mesh will allow oxygen to circulate while still keeping your compost secure. Not only is this bin expandable, but it fits easily into any yard or outdoor space. To see the excellent Amazon reviews, click here.
Treat Compost Right
If you want good soil to add to your garden beds, then you need high-quality compost. Sure, you don’t need to worry about why there’s mold on your compost, but you need to handle it correctly and make sure it stays balanced to get the desirable rapid decomposition. In nature, all that organic material will eventually break down, but composting speeds up the process so that you can get the same result in a few months. Thus we can use this technique to create a beneficial additive for the garden from our wasted materials quickly.
The following list includes the most important steps for healthy compost.
- Cover your compost. Doing this helps keep the balanced moisture inside so all those microbes can do their work. In dry climates, it traps water. Meanwhile, folks who live somewhere extra rainy can prevent making a soupy sludge out of their composting efforts.
- Fork your compost (turn it over) regularly. If you use a tumbler, then you need to rotate it every three or four days. For those with a static pile, make sure you aerate and turn your compost at least once a week with a pitchfork.
- Add fine carbon material that composts quickly. Doing this will help speed up the overall process and promote a healthy environment for your microbes to thrive in. Moreover, adding extra-fine carbon can help reduce an overly wet compost pile’s overall moisture.
- Add a nitrogen activator. Brown materials like leaves are high in carbon, but they lack nitrogen. As a result, adding a nitrogen activator gives your compost a kickstart and helps those browns to break down more efficiently and quickly.
- Make sure your compost stays moist, but don’t let it get wet and drippy.
How Can I Tell When the Compost is Done
Putting in all the effort to create good compost is worth it. However, if this is your first time around, there’s one other vital question. When is the compost done? Fortunately, the answer is straightforward. When your compost looks like dark rich brown-black soil, that is what it has become, and you can add it to your garden beds.
Get a quicker start with the Compost-It Compost Starter and Accelerator Bundle. This two-pack contains safe, organic ingredients to give you a jumpstart on your composting project, plus an accelerator for those slow decomposing pieces. Plus, Compost-It is safe for all compost systems and worm farms. Have Amazon deliver to your door by clicking here.
When you first begin your composting journey, it can be confusing at first. Having a lot of questions is perfectly normal. You should ask why your compost has mold or any other question that pops up along the way. After all, that’s how we learn. Fortunately, you probably don’t need to worry about some moldy compost as long as you mix it up.
The natural decomposition process gets a brief mention when we’re in school, but it is not covered extensively. Unless you’re in a related professional field, or you grew up gardening, farming, or otherwise involved in nature, there’s no reason you would know more about it. Once you start to see it in action, you’ll discover that composting and decomposition are fascinating and multifaceted.
Don’t stress over moldy compost. Nature is doing its job, and as long as you keep an eye on things, it will all turn out great, and your garden will be healthy and happy.