Stalled composting

by Jessica Blank
(Long Island City, NY)


I have a two sided barrel type compost tumbler, I filled up the first side and put some already ready compost in to kickstart it, and went on to fill the second side.

The first side heated up and started to break down, but now it only fills half of it’s side and it’s not hot any more. It seems to have stalled..

The second side is full and is nice and warm and I can see it already breaking down.

There is some soil like stuff in there, and it smells good - like earth, but there is still a lot of unbroken down brown stuff.

I live in the city with no yard, so a lot of my “brown” is shredded card-board. Is it still composting if it’s not hot?


Cardboard Woes

Hi Jessica,

It sounds like the material in the first side is ready. It has cooled down, looks more or less like soil and smells good. Go for it!

The cardboard you used as a brown is a very high carbon material. It breaks down very slowly. For it to fully break down would probably take several compost cycles.

When you use this compost you can screen out the cardboard if you like and just use it in your next batch.

The other option is just to go ahead and use it as is. If you do this spread it on top of the soil. Don't dig it in. It will break down over time there and will give you a bit of weed control in the process.

Another brown you may want to try for your tumbler are wood pellets, the kind that are used for pellet wood stoves.

What I like about them is they break apart very nicely in the compost. As a bonus they work well to deal with any moisture issues that often come up in tumblers with very moist kitchen scraps.

If things get too wet the best way I’ve found to fix that in a tumbler is to add a handful of wood pellets. They are very dry and soak up excess moisture brilliantly. In doing so they break apart and add carbon to your mix. Just be sure to adjust bit by bit, as in a handful or two of pellets at a time.

If your compost is too dry adding a cupful of water and spinning the tumbler, checking and possibly adding another cup. You might still use wood pellets to up the carbon in your mix but will need to also add a bit of water.

Thanks for Question Jessica

Click here to post comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Compost Questions ... and Answers.