Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Three Warning Signs Your Compost Pile is a Zombie

Your compost pile probably doesn’t let out an inhuman groan while stiffly walking towards you in a mindless quest to eat your brains but it still could be among the walking dead. Ever so slowly decomposing, lifeless, the shell of a once warm vibrant active pile.

Here are some zombie compost warning signs:

1. The pile is a dry dusty mass. Does your pile never seem to get any smaller and make crinkly, bone-crunching sounds when you poke at it?

2. Leaves from last year still look like leaves. Finding the fossilized remains of stuff you added last year? The point of composting is decomposition not embalming.

3. You see no bugs…ever. You need beetles, millipedes, and other creepy crawlies chomping up stuff in your pile.

How to bring your pile back to life

If your compost pile were a real zombie, you would cut off its head and move on. Luckily, you have a much less gruesome solution that involves minimal machete use and spattered blood.

1. Add water. All living things need water (I imagine even the living dead get needed water from all the brains they eat). For happy bacteria and fungi that decompose your material, make the pile as wet as a wrung out sponge.

2. Mix it up. Grab your pitchfork and attack the pile head on. Stab it, pull apart the guts, and repile it back in the bin.

3. Add “green” material. The freshly dead stuff like food scraps, grass clippings, or weeds add heat to your pile. You could also use a nitrogen booster if you wanted a quick fix. Although high in nitrogen, I would not recommend adding actual zombie corpses to the pile to avoid a strongly rancid decomposing smell.

Have you ever brought a pile back to life? I would love to pick your brain (ha ha ha) and learn how you did it. Please leave a comment.

Happy Halloween, everyone!


  1. Michelle,

    Any ideas/recommendations on starting composting at an apartment complex? I live at Desales Flats which is LEED Certified and prides themselves on being green and whatnot, but we don't compost. I was thinking of approaching management with the idea but was curious if you had any suggestions.


    1. Mark,
      There are a few options. First, if you have a backyard or even side yard space, you could use a traditional backyard bin or two. I would recommend at least two bins depending on how many units there are.

      If you have no yard space, you could use worm bins or vermicomposting bins. We have workshops a few times a year. These bins could be kept pretty much anywhere (except outside) and relatively easy to maintain as long as everyone using them knows what to put in and buried their food scraps.

  2. Do you can any recommendations for composting bins? I've seen the ones on tv that rotate so you don't have to do the turning by pitchfork. We are buying a house in the city of FP and our yards all back into each other with no fences. So, I want to be respectful of my neighbors and not have an eyesore of a pile of dead stuff. Any ideas? Thank you.

    1. The tumbler style compost bins that you are talking about tend to be a bit more expensive and a little more maintenance but you also can get great results and get finished compost faster. I have a post all about tumblers:
      And another on choosing a compost bin: I would also recommend you come to one of our upcoming seminars becuase we talk about the different options there. Good luck!