Pathogens — I'm Worried About Pathogens

by Bruce
(Scotland )

I have a bottomless compost bin in the garden where we put raw food scraps and coffee ect. I've placed some garden leaves and twigs also. It doesn't seem to be heating up but spore do appear when I turn it.

I'm worried about pathogens and whether I should just stop all together, if so how to dispose of it safely.

Pathogens in Compost

Bruce thank you so much for this question. Many people share your worry and we all tend to figure that hotter is better when it comes to composting.

The thing we all need to remember is that there's more than one way to beat a pathogen and heat is only one of them.


Actually the best way is biodiversity. In other words having in your compost a wide variety of inputs — different food scraps, a bit of soil, weeds from the garden etc.

Why is that? Because each different input will bring its own set of bacteria and fungi to the table so to speak. There's bound to be some able to handle whatever pathogens are present.


Time is another great leveler of pathogens. So a lower temperature for a longer time will manage those guys and create a more diverse ecosystem in the compost to boot.

It's not that the pathogens will be completely eliminated, it's that the critters that keep the pathogens in check are present in big enough numbers to do the job. And you need a few of those pathogens in the mix in order to have the beneficial microbes that address those pathogens there should they arise when you use the compost to grow your crops.


The only other bit of advice I have is to double check your moisture levels. The microbes you're growing need enough moisture to do their job but not so much that they're drowning. Give a handful a squeeze. A drop or two of water should come out ideally but not a steady stream. Adjust accordingly by adding water or dry material depending.

So carry on Bruce. The ultimate goal of compost is a nice biodiverse set of microbes to inoculate your soil along with some yummy organic matter to feed them. From what you say I think you're on your way.


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