Following on from last week's column on home composting, I received a number of queries about some of the problems that can arise.
One of these problems is rodents, which can be a concern associated with backyard composting. They can be attracted to compost piles, both as a source of food and a place to live but, while pest problems should not be underestimated, they are not insurmountable. A few simple measures can help to evict current squatters or discourage animals from moving in on your compost pile.
Good compost management can deter pests while also accelerating the composting process. By considering what you put in your compost bin and how you manage it, you may prevent unwanted visitors. Do not add meat, chicken, fish, oils, cheese, or leftovers containing excessive oil or seasoning. Some people find eggshells to be a particular attractant while others have had no problems with eggshells.
Taking care to avoid exposed food scraps can also help. The 'dump and run' composter is liable to have more problems. Add torn newspaper or cardboard each time you put food waste in the bin. Turning your pile and keeping it moist will increase the temperature and speed up decomposition. It will also discourage animals that are looking for a dry, undisturbed bed. Be watchful for food that becomes exposed when you turn the compost. Carefully observe the vents and other open areas of the bin . Good 'binkeeping', including covering all food scraps, is your best defence against all problems, including attracting undesirable insects and other pests.
Rodent-Proofing Your Bin
Vermin are able to burrow under and into your compost bin. Rats are able to chew through plastic bins, usually starting with the vents. Taking measures to prevent them from getting into your bin may discourage them. The way to do this will depend on your bin's construction. Some possible
• Wrapping your entire bin in wire mesh. If your compost bin has vents, it may be necessary to cover them with wire mesh.
• Lining your bin with wire mesh.
• A secure, tight-fitting lid is essential.
• Digging out the soil below your bin and laying three to four inches of coarse gravel underneath will act as a barrier against burrowing vermin.