Re: Compost and the cohouser
From: Fred H Olson WB0YQM (
Date: Wed, 7 Dec 94 17:32 CST
CMCCARTHY [at] CHIP.UCDAVIS.EDU Catherine Mccarthy is the author of this 
but due to a listserv problem it was posted by the COHOUSING-L sysop.

>I was chatting with one of my neighbours the other day, and we were talking 
>about our community compost boxes, which aren't holding up as well as we 
>had hoped.  They are made from recycled redwood fence boards, but the 
>redwood seems to be rotting out fairly quickly, especially in the first box 
>(where most of the decomposition takes place).  It looks like we'll have to 
>replace them in a year or two.


just a note on the compost bins, the redwood used in the bins is toxic to
redworms - so if your are interested in having worms living in your compost
bin and getting any vermiculture action, the redwood will inhibit this.>I
was wondering how you folks compost, what materials you used for the 
>boxes, and how well they have held up?

>We've also had rather a problem with flies breeding in our bins.  We live 
>in a very hot climate, and all our houses compost food waste religiously.  
>This means that we have rather a high proportion of food in the compost, 
>especially in midsummer.  Most of us just leave grass clippings on the 
>lawn, so we don't have that supply.  The wet high-nitrogen environment 
>seems to lend itself to maggots.
>We have found that flyproofing the compost bins helps somewhat while it 
>stays tight.  We have added grass clippings/leaves from outside which helps 
>- but we can't always get them.  Turning the compost every couple of days 
>helps - but we don't always have the energy.  
*** FLYS
 In terms of the flys, you are never going to get rid of them completely. 
The best thing to do is try and keep a lid on the bin so that they are only
right around the pile and not all over the place.  The other thing that is
important is keeping a layer of dry/brown, carbon-rich stuff on the top
such as dry leaves - this really cuts down on the fly problems.  

By turning the piles every few days you are already working very hard - but
it sounds like your problems are stemming from too much wet, nitrogen-rich
materials.  A good mix is 50-65% carbon rich (dry, brown), 30-35% nitrogen
rich (green, wet) with the rest being finished product/soil.  More leaves
is the best answer.  Personally, I'd continue to grasscycle (leave the
grass clippings on the ground) - it is better for your lawns.  If you are
adding grass clippings to get a better balance in your piles, make sure
they are dry - green freshly cut grass will only exacerbate your problems.

one easy way to aerate your bins is by sticking a pvc pipe with holes in it
in the middle of the pile - it really does work.  Also having forced
aeration through the bottom of the pile by having a lattice of branches (or
many people use a pallet).

good luck,
if you have any questions let me know

Catherine McCarthy

Catherine McCarthy 
   OFFICE: Division of Environmental Studies, UC Davis, Davis, CA 95616
   HOME:   503 F Street, Davis, CA  95616, (916)753-8389
   EMAIL:  cmccarthy [at]

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