Most compost piles do not attract pests but when they do there are steps to combat their presence. Here are some effective ways to keep little scoundrels out of the compost bin.
TIP: Our expert gardening advisor, Kathy Bosin adds, "For a healthy and functioning compost pile, turn, turn, turn! Getting into your pile with a large fork or spade to turn and mix the waste is the single biggest thing you can do to facilitate decomposition. Turn the pile weekly, and you'll notice fast results."
Use Acceptable Food Scraps
Rodents are attracted to meats, fish and dairy products. These should never be put into the compost pile. If there are unacceptable food scraps in the compost bin, take them out and cover the compost with a fresh coat of brown material such as grass clippings, straw, newspaper or leaves.
Only use fruit and vegetable remains in compost piles.
Even when using fruit and vegetables, flies and some rodents may be attracted if the scraps are exposed. Bury all food scraps beneath a thick layer of brown material such as grass clippings or newspaper. It is also a good idea to wrap food scraps in newspaper before burying them in the compost pile.
Ants move in when a compost pile is either too wet or too dry. To eliminate them, determine if your compost pile is wet or dry. The contents should feel like a moist sponge. For dry compost, add water to the bin and mix the contents with a pitch fork, rake or broom handle.
For wet compost, add brown materials such as grass clippings, newspapers, shredded paper, torn-up egg cartons or dead leaves. Mix these materials with the substances in the compost bin until all of the material is moist but not saturated. Be sure to keep your arms and hands covered so that ants do not crawl onto your skin.
Slugs are not a problem in the compost bin as they are natural decomposers and increase the bin’s rate of decomposition. However, they are known to damage gardens and are pretty simple to get out of compost.
One way to get slugs out of the compost bin is to dig a couple holes near the compost bin where the slugs are most abundant. Place a jar or bottle containing beer into the hole. Fill any space around the jar or bottle up with dirt. The slugs will be attracted to the beer and drown. Be sure to do this in the evening since slugs are most prevalent at night.
Another option is to place a wooden board near the slug infestation. Leave it overnight and in the morning turn it over. The slugs will go under the wood when the sun comes up. They can then be disposed of.
If the pests still bother the compost bin, cover it. Fence in the pile with chicken wire and cover it with bird netting to deter unwanted visitors. Also, be sure to close the lid to compost at night. This will inhibit most animals from getting into the compost.
There are other methods of composting food that may better eliminate pest problems such as vermiculture and soil incorporation. This will leave the compost bin free of any foods eliminating pests. Vermiculture uses worms to decompose food waste. The bin is completely enclosed so animals cannot get into the food scraps. Soil incorporation is a simple method of digging a 1 to 2 foot hole to bury food waste. Animals do not dig up the earth and the soil is fertilized by the food.