How about it? Any items you added to your compost pile that you later regretted and would never do again?
I have one…oregano cuttings. I had a small herb garden that I let get overgrown with greek oregano, and I cut it way back. Trying to be good about composting my own green waste, I threw the cuttings into my compost pile and they broke down nicely within a month or so. But my compost pile does not get real hot, usually not hot enough to kill seeds and stuff. So, now when I use the compost from my piles I end up with little oregano seedlings that I have to be very vigilant about pulling. Most of the time getting little seedlings from my compost is not a big deal. I pull the seedlings and put them into the compost pile. But oregano is different. If you let it get mature enough it will start to propagate with runners under the soil, similar to mint. If I am not careful it could take over all of my gardens…
If I could redo the last few months of heap style composting, I would not have added any discoloured banana peels, nor the unappetizing brown blossom ends from the internal part of said bananas, to the heap last Spring. I thought the problem with blossom ends was ordinary blossom-end rot due to calcium deficiency, as it always had been so in years past.
The 2010 Springtime banana rot was due to something sinister… A disease called Black Sigatoka, caused by a pathogenic Fijian fungus. This fungus can also harm several other types of tropical plants, besides bananas.
It harms Canna indica (canna lily), Cocos nucifera (coconut palm tree), Crinum asiaticum (crinum lily), Dioscorea (yam), Heliconia (lobster claw and parrot flower), Rosa chinensis (rose), and Spondias dulcis (a tropical fruit tree called malay apple).
My purple yam plants visibly sickened- they developed a sudden case of wilt, even when the weather was not hot. My rosebush and my Heliconia suddenly became sick too, as evidenced by brown leaves and weak new growth.
The garden needed some serious intervention! It took me several months to repair damage, because I didn’t use storebought antifungals…Couldn’t afford them, and in general principle, I also disapprove of their use. I want an organic garden.
Luckily, I caught the disease in a very early stage. Managed to restore health to the plants and the garden soil via pruning & disposal of all infected matter, and organic fungicidal home remedies. I also made numerous applications of a beneficial soil fungus, Glomus etunicatum.
No more discoloured or questionable looking stuff has gone into my outdoor compost heap from then on, and I’m keeping it that way!
Have plans to cook all pathogens out of such things via Summertime solarization in sealed black plastic landscape bags, then take the solarized material and either burn it to get ashes (potash) for fertilizer, or maybe feed it to my indoor wormery a little bit at a time, then bake the resulting vermicompost thoroughly in the oven before use as seed starting material.
Pumpkin seeds – or indeed the seeds of any type of squash – are the things which give me more grief than anything else. They sprout wherever the compost is spread or dug in.
Tomartyr- Precisely why I usually roast and eat my squash seeds.. reserving some uncooked C.pepo seeds for medicinal purposes. I.e. pumpkins, acorn & sweet dumpling squash, delicata, Gem, and any other squash of this particular species. :)
From Plants For a Future:
“The [seed of the] pumpkin has been much used as a medicine in Central and North America. It is a gentle and safe remedy for a number of complaints, especially as an effective tapeworm remover for children and pregnant women for whom stronger acting and toxic remedies are unsuitable254. The seeds are mildly diuretic and vermifuge[7, 88, 254].
The complete seed, together with the husk, is used to remove tapeworms. The seed is ground into a fine flour, then made into an emulsion with water and eaten. It [may sometimes be] necessary to take a purgative afterwards in order to expel the tapeworms or other parasites from the body7. As a remedy for internal parasites, the seeds are less potent than the root of Dryopteris felix-mas, but they are safer for pregnant women, debilitated patients and children238.
The seed is also used to treat hypertrophy of the prostate218. The seed is high in zinc and has been used as a zinc supplement, and also used successfully in the early stages of prostate problems254.
The diuretic action of the seed has been used in the treatment of nephritis and other problems of the urinary system254. T
I have heard that horror story over and over, lol. Tomatoes and squash popping up everywhere! :) If I ever start another compost pile, I will not add anything, knowingly, that readily sprouts from seed. :)
I added way too much cooked rice to my vermicomposter, and ended up smothering them…that one really sucked :(
Long pieces of grass runners. A few handfuls went into the bin (a small tumbler) last Fall… now there’s a bin of mostly-done compost tangled up in a big knot of those things. One of these days I need to yank them all out and trim them down so I can get at the compost, but I’m not looking forward to getting elbows-deep in it.
Everything so fibrous gets snipped into 2"-4" pieces before going into a bin now.
Helpful stuff! This is my first year with a compost pile and I’m still trying to get the hang of the greens/browns ratio and what is green what is brown….I’m sure eventually I’ll get the hang of it! I wonder if you can put squash or pumpkin scraps in that has seeds but like after they have set out (rotted basically) since last growing season? I’ve heard to save seeds you have to let them harden on the vine, for squash anyway.
The squashes have a way of surviving anything. I’ve had them sprout in the scrap pile. Not compost that we use for the garden, but where we dump old concrete and other junk. We started dumping squash leftovers there so they did not cause problems with the compost. And they actually grew and did well. We did not eat them because who knows what types of toxins may have been in that pile. And one year my boys took all of the squashes that were left in the garden and played an interesting game with them. One stood on the roof of the garage/pole barn with a bat and the other one pitched the squashes. The building is near the garden and the following year I had a huge crop of mystery squashes that I did not plant. So much for letting them harden on the vine!
@kris04 – don’t get too hung up over green-brown ratio because it isn’t an exact science. If you find your bin is smelly and the green matter is a gluggy mess, then your green layers are probably too thick, but nothing that a good forking over won’t fix.
@grovespirit, now you’ve got me worried about bananas. I always add the peels to my compost bins and have been chopping peel up to “feed” to my roses too. Any more info on this?
Worst thing (apart from bananas, possibly) I ever added is the rotting remnants of a major plum glut. There was nothing to do with them after I’d taken 50lbs, given away 50lbs and there must still have been 50lbs left. That was 2 years ago. The plum kernels have been driving me ….bananas ever since.
You can bury the plum kernels someplace, such as in the bottoms of pots, or in a composting trench… to speed their decomposition and get them out of view. That’s what I do with the mango seed husks when I’ve had way too many overripe mangoes, composted them all, and then had lots of empty mango seed shells left over. :)
Next time you have a big excess of plums, perhaps you could try:
*giving them to a food bank, or to any church/temple which serves a large populace
*dehydrating them to make prunes
*posting them on Freecycle or Craigslist for some thrifty person to come and get,
*brewing up some homemade plum wine, if that isn’t against your belief system.
Not sure what you mean by “more info” on the banana disease Black Sigatoka?
There’s already lots of info about that, if you follow the link given above and read the Wiki article.
And perhaps if need be, look into the references given at the end of said article.
@kris04 – I am with @Tomartyr on this one. Just try to add equal amounts of greens and browns and it shouldn’t be too bad. The thing to watch out for is the smell. If the compost bin does not smell right, then turn it over and add some more browns. I stock up on leaves in the fall and then use them throughout the spring and summer as I add the greens to my pile. I store them in a huge 32G can with a lid so they stay “fresh” until I throw them into the bin.
I put what I thought were clean eggshells in my ball composter. Next thing I checked, there were maggots aplenty. Yucch! That sight game me bad dreams! Even after they cleared from the compost, the eggshells never decomposed.
I try to cut up my compost vegetable matter into small chunks to hasten decomposition but sometimes can’t really get them as small as I would like, In fact I still see the remnants of a pineapple top in the mix. I do see something sprouting in the compost but am unsure what it is, I just plow them under each time I open the ball.
Just wondering why oak leaves are not acceptable and if there is a distinction between oak leaves and live oak leaves in this regard.
Thanks for any info.
@smileybabs – The eggshells aren’t going to really break down in the compost. They just get broken up into smaller pieces. Next time wash them off and then let them sit in the sun for a day or two before you add them to the bin. They dry out and then you can easily smash them up when you add them to the compost. For the oak leaves, I think oaks secrete a chemical that causes inhibits the growth of other plants, similar to eucalyptus trees. So, you would not want to add those to the compost and have it affect your own garden. And I love digging through the compost and checking on things I added the last time and seeing what state of decomposition. Last time I turned over the bins I found one of the stems from the Halloween pumpkins we threw in last Fall. The pumpkin is long gone, but stem is still slowly decomposing
I came home today to a decapitated bird on my lawn, and I was considering placing it in my compost or worm farm, but looking above at the mention of maggots have made me rethink this.
Hopefully the butcherbirds will cart it away :(
I used to have a plot in a community garden, we also had a community compost pile.
Things I wish other people hadn’t put in the pile:
broken, rusted tomato cages
broken plastic pots
at least the rocks were in the corner and were useful for filling in the holes the rabbits dug….
@startide_rising: Thanks for the information!
I did think of one other thing I wish didn’t turn up in my compost- the identification tags that come on fruits and vegetables from the store. Those things seem to be indestructible!
@smileybabs – Hah! That is very true. I am pulling those out all the time when I turn the piles over. The other thing I pull out are the plastic ties I use to tie up my tomato and cucumbers during the summer. That type of plastic is supposed to be biodegradable, but I think it requires sun or something to really break it down.
oh, sometimes they also put non-broken plastic pots in there too. but, like the rocks, those were at least useful. like a freecycle pile:
Curb alert: plastic pots, rocks, half-decomposed organic matter, etc…..
Re. eggshells in the compost heap, I swear by crushing them up almost to a powder in a special pestle n’ mortar I keep in the kitchen for that purpose. Then they totally disappear in the compost heap.
Since we invested in a composting thermometer ($40) we are able to see that our compost is getting hot enough to kill off any unwanted seeds. When the temperature drops out of the hot zone we know it’s time to turn it. Before we bought one it was all guess work; either we weren’t getting it hot enough, or not turning it soon enough to keep it hot.
Not sure I regret this – last summer I placed a dead Tagetes plant with an abundance of dried-up seed heads in the composter. Now there is a multitude of Tagetes showing up around the fruit tree trunks… which is where I spread this batch of compost in late February… ;)
Thanks for the advice. I will try crushing them. I’m all for getting everything into the compost I can!
It’s not something I seriously regret because for reasons I won’t detail here I can’t use my compost on my beds regardless so it just gets spread onto the lawn every year. But I was at an opening a few years back and they had these “biodegradable” corn-based cups. I was skeptical so I took mine home rather than throwing it away and tossed it in the compost pile. It’s still there. In its second year my partner decided to cut it up with scissors to see if that would in any way accelerate the process. But the strips are still there every time I turn the pile. I feel like I’m doing the compost version of that experiment with the mcdonalds hamburgers from the end of Supersize Me.
@cristyn – I have seen those as well, but usually it is the flatware made out of corn. My daughter, upon hearing they were made of corn, started to eat one, but gave up after a while since there was not much gourmet taste to it. :-) I think that while they are biodegradable, I think they require some kind of “industrial” composting techniques or something to break then down faster. I love the experimentation! I have composted Starbuck’s cups, silk teabags, and most recently plates from Chipotle in my bin to see how they fare. It is always interesting.
@flowerweaver – Oh yeah, a compost thermometer is a must if one is serious. My problem is just keeping the temperature up as I am adding more and more stuff to it. I’m not into the “have all the ingredients ready to assemble the pile” style.
I rinse out eggshells, save them aside and turn them into a powder with a blender. I’ve also added water to the dust and blended again to make a fertilizer additive.
I don’t know what I regret becuase I don’t know what it was… The thing is that I keep a compost bin in my parent’s house, I told them what to put in and what not (only veggies scraps, no citrics, no meat nor coocked food), but I’m not always there to see what they put in the bucket that later I add to the compost bin. I turned it today and saw many maggots while doing it, it’s a bit disgusting… What can I do? The temperature today was what I consider high (I saw some steam coming out of the pile) and that’s when I turn it, aren’t the maggots supposed to die (or not form at all) with the heat? isn’t my compost getting hot enough? should I get a thermometer?
Thanks for any advice you can give, really appreciate it.
Maggots can also appear on overripe or rotting fruit, even if it is not citrus fruit. I tend to get a lot of maggots on mango waste (pits and peels), for instance.
So, it is still possible that they did follow your directions and they just had a lot of fruit in the bucket.
Although they are gross to look at, maggots in the compost heap will not harm the final product at all.
What you can do to reduce the number of maggots is:
*Get a compost heap thermometer and use it, to make sure the pile is getting hot enough to kill maggots.
*Turn the heap more often, which in some cases means you might need to use a tumbler type of composter to make it easier to turn often. The better the heap is mixed, and the more often it is mixed, the less likely maggots will appear.
*Make sure the compost heap has plenty of high carbon “brown” material in it, to balance out the kitchen wastes which are considered “green”.Most of the time a beginner’s compost heap has far more kitchen waste (which is considered “green”) than high carbon waste (which is considered “brown”.) If there are more greens than browns in the pile, maggots and stinking can happen. And it can also attract rats, skunks, or mice, too.
“Brown” high carbon items to add include dry tree leaves, dried corn husks, dried corn cobs which are cut into small pieces, dried flowers, shredded paper or shredded cardboard, dry, aged (brown) grass clippings or old hay, nut shells, dead plant seeds which are too old to sprout, small pieces of tree bark and small woody twigs from trees or shrubs, and sawdust.
*If you live someplace where “brown” items are difficult to find, consider vermicomposting with composting earthworms as a way to process excess kitchen waste.
I put anything I want into my compost with no problem at all. In the 1970 I discovered post hole composting. I use an auger posthole digger, go down until I am below the topsoil, and fill the hole about half full with kitchen compost, gardening wastes, maybe a little horse manure, anything organically non dangerous to plants and animals, and then fill the hole with topsoil and tamp.
It’s a worm paradise, and it breaks up hardpan given a little time. When I finally reach the last place I haven’t dug a posthole yet the first location is composted entirely. So far no garden wastes seeds or plant matter have propagated ever.
Sometimes I dig a series of holes ahead of time to be ready for the next compost material drop.
I wouldn’t trust a few of the true pests though. No bamboo, no Comfry, no deep rooted material that is known to grow from root cuttings – but I might experiment.
The top of the compost material deposit is always over a foot from the surface. I like simple and easy. almost 70 years of gardening makes one consider such solutions.
@grovespirit: That makes perfect sense, with the mango season starting (and a whole bunch of other fruits too) the fruit waste output of the kitchen has increased a lot. Maybe I’m not adding enough browns, I’ll try to compensate next turn. Thanks a lot!
Sword ferns -They were planted by the previous owner and were a rampant annoyance to me. But the joy of ripping them all out was short lived. They were a nightmare in the bin (growing happily) and a scourge since (propagating everywhere).
Horsetail. I chopped those weeds up before putting them in the compost, but last year I started to get horsetail in my once pristine raised beds. This stuff has been around since the dinosaurs. It has staying power.
Leftover calendula. I stuffed about 6-8 huge plants and seedheads into my compost bin without really thinking about it and it seems like neither the compost bin heat at the end of summer or the freezing over winter killed them and now they’re coming up everywhere in the garden where I used my first batch of compost! Annoyingly, the self-seeded ones did better than some of the saved seed I had so I ended up digging the most vigorous self-seeded ones up and putting them in the coldframe instead!