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Exactly how smelly will my compost pile get?

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Exactly how smelly will my compost pile get?

Post  Davidaaron on 2/5/2015, 12:41 pm

So, I’ve taken everyone’s advice and decided to create my own compost pile (Berkley method). I acquired a number of pallets from a local hardware store, created two bins, lined them with some weed block fabric cloth, and cut a piece of plywood in half to create some covers. I’ve got a local grocery store to donate expired produce, and I got a hold of a wood chipper to chop it all up. I also have an ample supply of dead leaves, hay, and access to horse manure.  Well, I have neighbors on both sides of me, and their houses are both with 10-15 yards of my house. They are nice people and I really don’t want to upset them by having a landfill smell coming from my back yard. So, I’m looking for some input from some of you that have done this before… how bad is this going to get?


Thanks for everything!


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Re: Exactly how smelly will my compost pile get?

Post  camprn on 2/5/2015, 12:52 pm

If you are doing a Berkley method it rarely has an opportunity to become offensively smelly. And if it does, it doesn't last long because everything in the pile if composted in under 30 days.


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There are certain pursuits which, if not wholly poetic and true, do at least suggest a nobler and finer relation to nature than we know. The keeping of bees, for instance. ~ Henry David Thoreau



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Re: Exactly how smelly will my compost pile get?

Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts on 2/5/2015, 1:21 pm

Dave, have fun with it!

I have probably done a dozen Berkeley piles in the last couple of years and have had no issues at all with smell that would bother anyone else.  Though we live on 5 acres, my compost turning area is right next to our patio and outdoor lounging section of our yard and no one in the family has ever had any complaints!

I've had two piles that the very bottom layers were smelly as I was turning the pile.  They were a little heavy on the manure.  I only smelled the offending material during the pile turn.  There was no order in the vicinity before or after.  By the 3rd turn (one week or so) there was no smell at all except that wonderful, rich compost smell.

If it were offensively stinky, you have too much nitrogen in the mix, turn it and add in some straw, leaves or other browns to bring it into balance.

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Re: Exactly how smelly will my compost pile get?

Post  Kelejan on 2/5/2015, 2:36 pm

I think it would only get stinky if eg. you put in too much from lawn clippings without allowing them to dry.
If you put in fresh manure, just make sure you cover it with  four inches of something brown like fall leaves. Even shredded paper would do.

So far I have never had a problem and my piles are withing a few feet of my back door and bedroom window.

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Re: Exactly how smelly will my compost pile get?

Post  sanderson on 2/5/2015, 3:17 pm

Three neighbors are within 30 feet of my compost bin.  My summer Berkeley piles stink when they get hot (160*F) from about day 3 until day 15.  I haven't heard any complaints.  Of course, 2 have dogs that they pick up after maybe on a weekly basis, and there is no way we would host anything outdoors with the dog poop aroma.  My clothes line is right by the compost pile and I cannot hang clothes during the session either.

If any neighbor complains, offer them some of the finished product!  Very Happy  If they have a graduation party or Easter or 4th of July barbeque, just work around those special events.

PS  I see that Audrey has replied.  One stink is septic grass clippings.  The summers are so hot that the clippings start to break down in their bag within hours.  So, I don't add them anymore.  Also, I may be adding too much horse manure.  Also depends on whether it's fresh or over 6 months old.  Still fine tuning.

And now Kelejan has replied. I do cover the top and sides with leaves. But when I turn it the first time, it gets mixed up and the poo is on the outside.


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Re: Exactly how smelly will my compost pile get?

Post  plantoid on 2/5/2015, 5:49 pm

Stopping stink.
 Green grass cuttings  or other full of water lush greens like cabbage stink when decaying en mass , so dry them out a bit before putting them in the compost heap ..leave them on hard ground ,wire netting or concrete for a few days to wilt a bit  then add them .

Horse , pig ,chicken , turkey & cow muck   ( I use it a lot in my cone shaped lidded plastic composting bins ) add it by mixing it in as you build the pile , lightly fine mist the pile as you build it with a hose pipe sprayer  .
I would offer that putting heavy polythene sheeting to line your bins & cover the pile would help things tremendously  which is quite the opposite of what most folk do  it will sweat and compost much quicker and the internal heat will be retained .

 If you have to store it till your ready , put it in thick strong plastic sacks and cable tie the tops up , covering the bags with a weighted down water proof cover .. the muck will slowly sweat and compost on it's own in the bags and as it is not too open , the gas release is very slow.  I had over a ton of bagged manures stored like this for over six months last year , no one has a neighbour 6 yards away from  my main door ( from hell ) whose sole purpose in life appears to to be whine and whinge till she's blue in her face like I have .
All my bagged stuff was trailered and wheel barrowed into place during the hours of darkness one wet rainy evening. Laughing.

Cover the composting pile with some old carpet to not only keeps the moisture in to speed up the composting but to also slows down any sudden big release of pungent gasses as the gas has to percolate through the massive extra surface area of the carpet fibres exposed to the air so it helps effectively dilutes any strong smells .

If things do get a bit pong whiffy and your discovered Laughing ,  apologise , explain what you're going to about it , then turn the heap asap without adding any more water or ingredients to the heap  & put the carpet back over it .  The new supply of fresh air will boost the microbial action and it should dry out quite quickly in say 15 hrs or so ...enough to stop the stink but still be damp enough for composting. 

My better side next door neighbour Eileen , gave me a right ear bending one day , telling me I ought to sort things out in my gardens because of , " The godawful smell " she was getting every day .
I then asked her which way the wind was blowing , somewhat rather embarrassed she realised it was blowing from her property across mine and that I was not responsible for the toe nail curling smell . It was coming from the small dairy farm 600 yards away as he was pumping slurry in the day instead of doing as usual at 22.00 hrs plus each evening .
Another tip is turn the heap at dusk /night when folks are going inside .. and closing doors or putting insect screens up as the stiller air in their homes does not present them with the stink quite so much

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