10 Reasons Compost Does Not Rot

10 Reasons Compost Does Not Rot

Compost in the garden is a valuable natural fertilizer. It contains many nutrients important for plants and also improves the quality of the soil.

Composting recycles organic waste on site. It’s good for the environment because it reduces the use of artificial fertilizers and other chemicals.

So far so good. Sometimes, however, composting doesn’t work out the way you want it to. The waste just lies around and doesn’t want to rot.

If things get really bad, the compost pile even starts to stink and rot. However, this is no reason to panic.

As a rule, the problem can be solved relatively easily once you have identified the cause. In our guide, we’ll give you possible reasons why compost doesn’t rot and explain what you can do.

too few compost worms

10 Reasons Compost Does Not Rot

There is much to be said about compost. For example, proper composting requires experience and intuition. One of the most common reasons why it takes longer than normal for the material to rot is that there are too few compost worms.

These are special subspecies of earthworms that convert organic waste into finished compost. Along with microorganisms and other small animals, compost worms are instrumental in composting.

They eat organic material and excrete a substance called worm humus. It contains nutrients important for plants and is an important component of compost.

There may be several reasons why there are too few compost worms in the compost pile. In a newly established compost pile, it takes a considerable amount of time for the animals living in the soil to find their way into the compost pile and multiply.

In existing compost piles, the worms may not find good conditions and therefore do not reproduce. They like a slightly alkaline environment that should be neither too dry nor too wet and, of course, enough shredded organic waste for food.

Solution to the problem
Create good conditions for the compost worms.
Buy compost worms from a specialized store and release them on the compost pile on the same day.
Per cubic meter (450 l) of compost, 1,000 specimens are sufficient. It is best to buy the worms at your local specialty store. Alternatively, you can order the worms online.

ingredients were not crushed

10 Reasons Compost Does Not Rot

In order for the organic waste that is thrown onto the compost heap to ultimately become valuable fertilizer, the compost worms and their countless colleagues have to work hard. The coarse components of the waste take significantly longer to decompose than finer material.

This is especially true if they are to be composted in large quantities at once. In the worst case, the process can even come to a standstill.

Solving the problem
Shred coarse material such as shrub or hedge trimmings with a shredder. Pieces with a length of 5 – 10 cm are ideal.
Do not throw too much coarse material on the compost pile at once. Hold it back and mix it in gradually.

ingredients were not mixed

10 Reasons Compost Does Not Rot

Composting works best when the organic waste is mixed as well as possible. It should contain both coarse and fine material as well as moist and dry waste. Only the mixture of material with opposite properties provides optimal conditions for composting.

Solution to the problem
Mix the waste even before it is deposited in the compost pile. If you have a lot of wet waste, such as lawn clippings, mix in dry, coarse material, such as shrub clippings or dry leaves.
Turn the compost pile over. As you do this, the top layers come to the bottom and vice versa. The compost worms’ food will be evenly distributed and the substrate will be loosened and aerated.

wrong ingredients


If composting is not going well, it is often because you are throwing the wrong things on the compost pile. This is because it is not a bio garbage can where you can throw everything as long as it is organic waste.

Things that have no place in the composter include, for example, sweepings, the contents of the vacuum cleaner bag, stones, large pieces of wood, coal ash or waste wrapped in foil. All of these will not rot and will slow down composting.

Peels of citrus fruits in large quantities make the compost soil acidic, This does not like compost worms.

Diseased plant parts and seed-bearing weeds can spread further.

Solution to the problem
Pre-sorting the waste
If you have children, you can take the opportunity to show them what belongs in the compost pile and what does not.

compost accelerator is not used


Industrially produced compost accelerators are available in liquid or powder form. They are more enriched with nutrient-rich material and stimulate the growth of microorganisms.

Compost accelerator should be added to the compost pile in moderation (not masses).

Solution to the problem
You can buy preparations or make your own natural compost accelerators. The recipe is simple:

1 cube of fresh yeast
500 grams of sugar
1 bucket of lukewarm water
The preparation is quick. Take 1-2 liters of lukewarm water and dissolve the yeast in it. Pour the mix into the bucket and fill up with lukewarm water.

Add the sugar and stir until it is completely dissolved. Pour the mixture into a watering can and use it to water the compost pile.

location wrongly chosen


Sometimes composting doesn’t work out if the composter is in the wrong place. In the blazing sun, composting comes to a standstill, because at too high temperatures the small creatures die or flee.

In a shady location, on the other hand, it may be too cool. Decomposition takes too long.

Solution to the problem
A semi-shaded location is best. If necessary, cover the compost or provide shade.

too much material of one variety

10 Reasons Compost Does Not Rot

The organic waste intended for composting should be as mixed as possible. Coarse and fine, dry and moist material make ideal “food”.

The small organisms prefer a varied diet. Then they multiply rapidly and quickly produce the required compost.

Solution to the problem
If larger quantities of the same material accumulate at once (for example, when mowing the lawn, cutting the hedge or the autumn leaves), do not compost it all at once, but dry some and save it for later. Mix in some compost accelerator.

branches and twigs were not chopped.


Before throwing them on the compost pile, shred larger pieces of wood into 5 – 10 cm long pieces with a garden shredder. This way they will rot much faster.

Solution to the problem
If your garden produces only a small amount of shrubbery cuttings, a garden shredder is not worth it. However, you can borrow such equipment online or at a hardware store.

Alternatively, pool with neighbors and create a shredder together.

chemically contaminated waste


Citrus peels, banana peels and cut flowers from the supermarket are loaded with pesticides and pesticides. This drives away the sensitive compost worms and thus slows down decomposition.

Solving the problem
Larger quantities of such waste belong in the organic waste garbage can, not in the compost pile. Small amounts or peels of organic fruits are safe, as are bouquets of flowers from the garden.

bad composter


Closed compost bins sometimes have ventilation openings that are too small. The contents may rot or mold, especially in cool weather. Sometimes the composter is also too small.

Solution to the problem
Either create additional vents or buy or build a new, better or larger composter.

Making compost rot faster – Our 5 secret tips


There are quite a few methods you can use to speed up composting. Most of them boil down to either providing more favorable conditions for the living things in the composter so that they multiply faster and thus compost the waste faster, or removing unwanted things from the compost (for example, too much moisture).

the three-bin principle

10 Reasons Compost Does Not Rot

This trick is somewhat reminiscent of the three-field farming of the Middle Ages. At that time, 2 fields were cultivated and the third lay fallow to recover. This increased yields by about 20 percent.

Also, with the three-bin principle of composting, the process is much faster than if only a single bin were used. Instead of one bin where you collect all the waste, you use 3:

Bin #1: This is where the fresh waste is deposited. They can settle and excess moisture can drain away. Pre-rotting starts in the container.
Bin No. 2: It contains the semi-finished compost. Hot rotting takes place in this bin. This is the most intensive phase of composting. Sometimes temperatures can reach +70 degrees Celsius.


Container No.3: In the third container, the post-rotting takes place. The hot substrate cools down slowly until the finished compost can be used in the garden.


The method of operation is simple. You use the compost in the garden and empty container No.3, then shovel the contents of the 2nd into the 3rd container and the fresh waste from the 1st into the 2nd container.

Fill the first bin with waste again. This way you will constantly have enough compost in your garden.

Be careful not to make the compost pile too large. The optimal size is 1 cubic meter. Larger amounts will not aerate well.

Instead of 3 smaller composters, you can build one large one yourself and divide it into 3 chambers.

use bentonite


Bentonite is a mixture of various clay minerals. The substance is used in horticulture as a soil amendment agent.

In light sandy soils, bentonite increases the capacity to retain water. At the same time, the compound retains nutrients by binding them and releasing them only slowly.

In this way, plants are continuously supplied with nutrients. In compost, bentonite also has positive effects.

Microorganisms bond the clay minerals of the bentonite with humic acids to form so-called clay-humus complexes. This gives the finished compost a fine, crumbly structure.

The soil becomes loose and well aerated. In the compost pile, bentonite binds excess water. In this way, it prevents wet waste from beginning to rot.

If you have fresh compost in the garden, you should add some bentonite once. By the way, bentonite is also used as healing clay to detoxify the intestines.

But please do not use bentonite from the hardware store for this purpose. The preparation for medical applications is offered in drugstores!

new compost pile


If no other measure is successful, you have no choice but to rebuild the compost heap. Place a layer of shrub cuttings and other coarse material as the bottom layer for drainage.

Everything must be thoroughly mixed. Shred coarse pieces and mix dry material into the wet waste. Some old compost serves as a “booster” for composting.

Suitable materials include:

  • dry leaves
  • sawdust from untreated wood
  • prunings from shrubs
  • used potting soil
  • torn egg carton


By rearranging the soil, you also aerate the substrate and provide microorganisms and small animals with vital oxygen. You can also take this opportunity to add some bentonite and compost accelerator to the mix.

Both substances, compost accelerator and bentonite, are not miracle cures!

They cannot compensate for basic errors in composting and should only be used sparingly and according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

correct ratio of carbon and nitrogen


Different materials thrown on the compost pile have different nutrients. Wood and woody plant parts contain a lot of carbon. This is relatively degradation resistant material.

In other words, it is difficult for microorganisms to digest. They need nitrogen so that organic waste can be composted into humus.

This is contained in high proportions in green waste and lawn clippings. Pure shrub cuttings or straw decompose poorly because they contain too little nitrogen.

However, pure green cuttings or lawn clippings also cause problems. It rots poorly because the material is compact, poorly aerated and contains a lot of moisture.

It tends to rot. The solution is obvious: mix dry material with a lot of carbon well with moist material with a lot of nitrogen. The microorganisms get “food” that contains many nutrients and is not too wet.

moisten compost heap

In order for the compost to drain well, the material must contain enough moisture. Experienced gardeners say that good compost should be as moist as a squeezed sponge.

So during a prolonged drought, it may be a good idea to pour a few gallons of water onto the compost pile. An equally good tip is to cover the compost pile.

Use leaves or green cuttings for this purpose. You can pre-dry the latter material at the same time. This makes it easier to compost.

Alternatively, you can use mats made of straw or reeds or fleece. Covering reduces evaporation. If frost persists, the material will serve as a warming blanket, preventing the compost pile from cooling down too much.

The material used for covering must be permeable to air. If plastic sheeting is used, air exchange will be impeded. The compost pile may begin to rot or mold.

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