So I didn't heed the rule to include adequate amounts of dead material along with green and the compost got super rank. I'm talking maggots and all!
Can I start adding dead material now and recover it or do I need to dispose of this and start over?
Also, I seem to remember reading somewhere that brown boxes can be used in place of dead leaves and straw. Is this true? As far as I remember I just need to remove any labeling and tear it into small pieces before adding. Is this correct?
Yep, just turn it well with lots of browns and it will be fine. Try to break up any green stuff that is matted together. Lack of oxygen is causing the vile odors.
You can use cardboard for browns but some people are concerned with the chemicals involved in making cardboard. If you have access to, or can make, shredded newspaper it would probably be a better way to go. The rule with that is, no glossy stuff, just the flat-looking regular newspaper. If you decide to use cardboard, I would try to use only cardboard from boxes made in the US. It should be printed on the box somewhere. As you said, if you can shred it or tear it into small pieces, it will work much better.
You could also do what I do, which is just ignore it and eventually it takes care of itself. I never manage to do compost the "right" way, but it all breaks down eventually. My compost piles are far enough away from the house that I don't have to smell them, though 😁
Your pile went anaerobic due to not enough carbons, and lack of oxygen. Lack of oxygen can be mitigated by periodic turning of the pile, but you’ll still need a workable ratio of carbon to nitrogen.
If you don’t want, or can’t wait for fall leaves to mix in, you could try something that’s worked for me many times. Use horse bedding pellets. They are nothing more than sawdust, udually pine, compressed into little pellets. No other ingredients. Tractor Supply sells a forty pound bag for around $5. And it goes a long way.
Take your mulch fork, and turn that pile ~ four to six inch layer, and a couple handfuls of horse bedding pellets. Repeat. Do it just like building a new pile. You should see it starting to heat up in a couple of days.
Never “dispose” of your organic materials! Even if you just leave it sit for an extra season, it has value.
Brandon, I respectfully suggest you look at this differently.
From my perspective, it's not a failure: it's a huge opportunity.
For two years, I have been doing intensive composting in food grade liners from 1000L IBC totes. I was given these -- saved them from the landfill -- and cut them in half, vertically, with a sawzall. Why? I had to retain moisture -- it was so dry that my compost would not work, it would simply dry out and get moldy.
However: when there's a good rain, I get a big pile of compost tea at the lowest corners. It's anaerobic, and stinks like the devil's arse on a bad day in Hades, but I discovered it's a resource.
I use it to soak biochar, wood chips, moldy straw bales, etc. etc., for weeks. And then I apply the whole slurry to growing areas (I try to mix it beforehand to introduce oxygen, phew!)
Result: the plants go nuts! This stinky swamp-butt mix is a nutrient-rich ambrosia in my sandy soil.
So before you try to re-establish the compost balance, I suggest you run a pail of water through the whole mix, capture it if you can, and apply it sparingly to your growing areas. Your plants will thank you. Your nose will recover, eventually. My 2c.
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