Five rules for sweet-smelling, pest-free compost

Compost bin

Thanks to Amy and Katie for inspiring this post!

Is your compost bin a little stinky? Do you feel like Pig-pen from Peanuts with all those flies buzzing about? And what was THAT you just saw scuttling away??

Fear not – with these simple compost tips your bin or heap will be pest-free and smell as sweet as soil should…

Cover up: Compost doesn’t like to be too wet or too dry so a cover protects it from rain and drying winds. It will also reduce the number of insects and animals as the contents will break down faster. You don’t need a tight-fitting lid, you can use a wooden cover or a square of hessian (make sure it’s natural, not plastic!).

Layer upon layer: Flying bugs or a sour smell are sure signs your compost is overwhelmed in some way. The culprit might be too many wet, slimy leaves or grass clippings, or perhaps (like us) your heap primarily receives kitchen scraps. The solution is to add a layer of any of the following: shredded office paper or newspaper; dry leaves or grass clippings; soil. It’s handy to have a pile of this “dry” stuff next your compost bin or heap, so you can sprinkle it on top of every bucket of kitchen scraps. You don’t need loads, just enough to cover the food and get the breaking-down process happening.

Cut it up, mix it in: If you’ve got a whole lot of animal life happening down at the heap, try this compost tip. Remember, fruit flies, vinegar flies and rodents are attracted to rotting food, not compost, so the faster it breaks down, the less there is for them to feast on. Chop up veggie scraps, run over garden clippings with the lawnmower and cut down branches and plants to small pieces, then dig it all in rather than just dumping it on top. A small garden fork is ideal for this job.

Give it some air, man: To turn food and leaves into soil, you need heat and air. A happy compost heap with no flies or smell will be producing plenty of heat at it’s core to do the job of breaking things down. Whenever you do get an attack of flying bugs or food smells, try turning your compost over to get more air circulating throughout. You can do this with a large garden fork or shovel. Our compost is in a bin and we find it effective to drive a long metal pole into it every now and them to create air tunnels.

Avoid meat products & oils: Unless you’re a composting queen, meat, bones, egg, dairy, oils and cooked foods shouldn’t go in your compost bin or heap. Composting these foods requires a more dedicated approach and this article is aimed at basic composters who chuck their veggie scraps and garden trimmings in and don’t want to start working with thermometers, adding lime etc. If you are a composting queen or king, I’d love your easy-to-follow tips in the comments for a future post.

I do not consider myself a compost queen, however I am learning. If you have any further compost tips or questions to ask, stick em in the comments.


  1. Susan says

    I’ve been going nuts lately on the shredded paper, works such a treat for covering up scraps when you’re running low on leaves or lawn clippings. I still get assaulted by fruit flies though when I open the lid – I just have to remember not to breathe in!
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