Compost Woes?

The following comment is my response to someone in one of my eco groups who said she found it too hard to have a compost pile because of raccoons. Feel free to copy/paste any of the following that you think might help with any of your efforts to encourage people in your circles to adopt restorative practices.

Compost bin/pile types and setups can easily be tailored to keep out unwanted critters or not attract them in the first place. I have never had issues with critters in my compost, other than at a community compost project on a ranch in Texas we had armadilloes and starving feral kittens digging underground to get into the box from underneath. We solved that situation pretty easily by feeding the kittens elsewhere; and by making a natural concrete mini berm wall thing that discouraged the armadilloes enough that they found it not worthwhile, and sought their normal wild food sources.

Another way to discourage critters (other than beneficial microbes and larvae) is to maintain a thermophilic (“hot”) compost pile. It takes a compost thermometer and a bit of practice but some folks enjoy it; it can even be a homeschool science project.

A well-managed compost pile or bin is not usually attractive to critters. The occasional possum or raccoon who digs up some freshly added piece of fruit etc from the top of my compost, because I was in a rush or whatever and carelessly didn’t add quite enough cover matter, I don’t stress out. I just rebury the scraps in the morning as needed.

A healthy balance of creatures is essential to soil health, stormwater mitigation, heat mitigation, and other essential functions that are matters of life or death for climate resilience and community wellbeing. Over time, as people refrain from applying poison to their landscape, a healthy population of predators such as owls and eagles and hawks and snakes can start to (re)emerge and help control rodents etc.

If we don’t start taking serious action now to build back the soil biology and water-holding capacity in this region, which has been depleted by sprawl development and murderous landscaping practices, we’ll be having extreme heat and water issues that make a few critter invasions look like a walk in the park.

And, on a thread in another group, where someone expressed reservations about the feasibility of commercial composting:

I think the commercial facility needs to be on high ground and atop a thick “bio-sponge” of straw, brown leaves, waste cardboard/newspaper, or other equivalent carbon-rich material. Whatever is the scaled-up commercial version of a well-managed home compost bin.

And, any application of the finished compost should be done in places where there are plenty of plants to quickly uptake the nutrients.

From what I understand from my permaculture studies: Here in the semitropics (as in the tropics), soil itself doesn’t hold many nutrients, and plants are a key part of nutrient uptake, runoff prevention. We need to replace as much as possible of the trees and other vegetation we have ripped out willy-nilly just about everywhere in this state. (That’s my understanding of the eco-dynamics of this climate, and it fits with my observations in my own yard, local patches of forest, etc. But I don’t have a science background, so I say this FWIW to the best of my understanding).

In our region, the water moves quickly thru the sandy soil. Which is why I’m always trying to encourage people to turn the ground into a sponge by adding thick layer of mulch. Fallen leaves, wood chips, etc. It’s an essential ingredient; otherwise our sandy soil is a sieve as the original post mentioned.

In closing: Anyone having trouble with compost issues (household, commercial, municipal or what have you), give me a shout and I will help you troubleshoot; it’s part of the free community services I provide as admin of the Daytona Beach Permaculture Guild, Permaculture Daytona; and as a node of the worldwide permaculture-design movement. Though based in Florida, I have done composting and other land-based work in all different climates including cold-weather and desert.