Composting In Schools

Troubleshooting Compost Problems

 Symptom  Problem  Solution

Pile is wet and smells like a mixture of rancid butter, vinegar, and rotten eggs

Not enough air

Or too much nitrogen

Or too wet

Turn pile

Mix in straw, sawdust, or wood chips

Turn pile and add straw, sawdust, or wood chips; provide drainage

Pile does not heat up

 Pile is too small


Or pile is too dry

Make pile larger or provide insulation

Add water while turning the pile

Pile is damp and sweet smelling but will not heat up Not enough nitrogen Mix in grass clippings, food scraps, or other sources of nitrogen
Pile is attracting animals

Meat and other animal products have been included

Or food scraps are not well covered

Keep meat and other animal products out of the pile; enclose pile in 1/4-inch hardware cloth

Cover all food with brown materials such as leaves, wood chips, or finished compost


Science &

in Schools



Cornell Waste Management Institute ©1996
Department of Crop and Soil Sciences
Bradfield Hall, Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853