Monday, July 12, 2010

How to Stop Critters from Raiding Your Compost Bin

City raccoons are huge. I mean body-builders on steroids, freaky radiation experiment, are-you-sure-that’s-not-a-bear huge. My friends learned this is especially true in Westwood where even a locking lid and 7-inch anchoring screws could not deter these crafty buggers from messing with their compost bin.

Bill and Andrea recently braved the unseasonably cold weather and long lines to buy their first compost bin at our May Sale. Shortly after setting it up in their backyard, they woke to discover the bin on its side with the best-tasting additions to the pile missing.

“Surely this is a fluke. Michelle assured us she never had any problems with animals. Why would our bin be the one to attract local wildlife?”

Bill righted the bin, secured the screws again, and continued composting. A few days later they awoke to again find the bin toppled over. Evidence of muddy paw prints spotted the side of the bin. Compost was strewn about the yard like the raccoons had danced around mocking the failed attempt to protect the compost. No doubt giving each other “high-fives” as they feasted on leftover broccoli and old apple cores.

Rather than placing the bin in the trash and calling me a liar (which I’m sure my less level-headed friends would have done), Andrea came up with an ingeniously simple solution. They placed a few large rocks around the bin. Rocks too heavy for even the most brawny raccoon to move.

Usually burying your food waste and having a locking lid is enough to deter nosey critters. However, if you find yourself in a similar situation to Bill and Andrea, there are a few things you can do to outsmart would be compost criminals.

1. Place chicken wire underneath to prevent burrowing animals from tunneling into the bin.
2. Add coffee grounds to the top of the pile- critters don’t like the smell.
3. Locate your bin away from garbage cans, bird feeders, and fruit trees which attract animals.
4. Turn your pile regularly to compost food waste faster and make a less attractive nesting area.
5. Secure your bin with rocks or place near a wire fence to make pushing it over more difficult.

This story does have a happy ending. Andrea and Bill no longer have problems with raccoons partying around their bin and they are now avid composters. In fact, judging by his enthusiasm, Bill may be on his way to a full out composting obsession.

Welcome to the club, Bill. Welcome to the club.

Photo from Flickr.

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