Composting is the process of converting organic waste into nutrient-heavy humus for fertilizing gardens and potted plants. Many would-be composters know the potential advantages of composting, including soil enrichment and reduced trash waste, but you might not be aware of potential composting drawbacks. Familiarizing yourself with some of the negative aspects of composting can help you enter the world of composting with your eyes open.
Potential for Mess
Constructing a huge compost heap in your backyard may leave you -- and your neighbors -- wishing you had chosen a less conspicuous way to go green. In order for compost heaps to properly decompose organic waste quickly and efficiently, the piles must measure minimally 3 cubic feet, according to the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension. Without a support framework around it, this large heap of decomposing waste often falls out of place as you turn and mix the layers together. Add in a bit of wind and, before you know it, leaves and other lightweight materials from your compost heap could start fluttering across your backyard.
You can make a quick trip to your garden supply center to pick up a bag of fertilizer, but creating your own nutrient-rich compost requires a much more significant time investment. Depending upon the composting method you opt to use, composting time from start to finish generally takes two months to two years before the compost waste is ready for application on your garden, according to Barbara Pleasant, coauthor of "The Complete Compost Gardening Guide." Add some wood-based products to your compost heap, and you'll most likely need to wait for two to three years before your compost will be sufficiently decomposed.
Failure to carefully monitor your compost heap could lead to a common compost problem -- bad odors. From potato scrapings to banana peels, many food scraps commonly added to a compost heap have the potential to create unpleasant smells. Similarly, lack of proper composting maintenance often allows excess moisture to accumulate in your compost heap. When this happens, the oxygen-loving aerobic bacteria drown and anaerobic bacteria take over the decomposition process, bringing with them a plethora of foul smells that can cause even the least smell-conscious compost enthusiasts to pinch their noses in disgust.
Many of the insects that approach your compost heap actually help aid in the decomposition process, but some of them could lead to pest problems. Compost heaps with a lot of wood-based materials could look quite inviting to a roving group of termites that might be interested in taking up residence in your stick-built home, as well. Other insects that have the potential to become pests around compost heaps include flies and ants. Depending upon where you live, decomposing food scraps also might attract mice and rats, as well as larger animal pests, such as raccoons and cats.