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7 Solutions to Common Compost Problems

1. My compost is wet, soggy or slimy
Nothing is worse than cold, slimy compost! How does it get this way? Three factors are usually to blame: poor aeration, too much moisture, or not enough nitrogen-rich material in the pile.
A compost pile overburdened with materials that mat down when wet—grass clippings, spoiled hay, heaps of unshredded tree leaves—can become so dense that the pile's center receives no air. If you leave such a suffocating heap uncovered during a prolonged rainy spell (and don't turn it to introduce some air into the center), you'll end up with a cold, soggy lump that just sits there.
Aerobic bacteria—the tiny microorganisms that make compost cook—cannot live in such an oxygen-poor environment. What you instead make welcome in such a pile are anaerobic bacteria, which don't require air to thrive. These microbes will eventually make compost, but they work much more slowly than aerobic bacteria and the compost will be slimy and soggy during the long (about 2 or 3 years) process.
This would be no big deal for a patient gardener, but an anaerobic compost pile makes a lovely home for sow bugs, pill bugs, and earwigs—all undesirables. And you can be sure that such a pile won't get hot enough to kill any weed seeds it contains, either.
Fortunately, soggy compost is fairly easy to fix. If relentlessly wet weather is part of the problem, place a loose-fitting lid or tarp over the pile. You'll also need to turn the pile over and fluff it up thoroughly. If you have some "hot," nitrogen-rich ingredients (like shellfish shells) and fibrous, nonmatting ingredients (like shredded corn cobs or sawdust), add them to help get things cooking. Your pile should heat up within a few days, after which you can keep it cooking by turning it every week or two.
2. My compost is dry and dusty
Chances are, you live in the West,...

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