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Hello Guest!
Welcome to the official Square Foot Gardening Forum.
There's lots to learn here by reading as a guest. However, if you become a member (it's free, ad free and spam-free) you'll have access to our large vermiculite databases, our seed exchange spreadsheets, Mel's Mix calculator, and many more members' pictures in the Gallery. Enjoy.

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fungus gnats in compost pile

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Post  sgeades 5/15/2011, 1:41 am

Hi All,

We have two compost piles that we started last summer/fall. We have swarms of fungus gnats(diagnosed by behavior and internet images) in our pile. From what I understand the flies them selves are not a big issue. Their Larvae, however, according to what I read will eat your plant roots. I'm scared to use this stuff when it fully breaks down. This is our second attempt at a compost pile. The first one, my husband added way too much dirt and the final product was mostly just dirt so we couldn't use that in our boxes. Now this year after working really hard, one of our piles is almost ready to go, maybe another month or so of turning it....I was hoping to use it in our boxes mid-summer when the plants are in need of a little boost.

Anybody have any expertise about fungus gnats? I know now that we could probably have avoided this by burrowing our fruit and fresh vegetable scraps under the browns. There are swarms of them and when we turn the pile they are all mixed in.

Thanks!
Shelly in Utah
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sgeades

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Post  Old Hippie 5/15/2011, 2:05 pm

If you are not planning to use it until mid-summer you have some time to 'cook' it, to get rid of them. Depending on how much you have will determine what you can do with it. If you have a huge pile of it, you can add some fresh grass clippings or a bag of cheap rabbit pellets to get it fired up. Layer it up the way you would if you are starting from scratch. A layer of compost, you can add a bit of kitchen waste, then your grass clippings or your alfalfa pellets. Moisten it and then cover it.

After about three days, check it and moisten it again. You will probably notice heat but it will be uneven. Turn it every other day moving stuff from the outside into the middle. In about a week, you will notice the heat is getting quite high. You should see evidence of steam or some white ash-like material on some parts. By about day 6 the temp should reach about 130F. It will stay that way for another week or so. Make sure you don't skip turning. After about two weeks or sometimes three, it will start to cool down. Keep turning it every couple of days and moistening it as needed to keep it damp. When it has cooled off, leave it to cure under a tarp or cover of some kind for 3 or 4 weeks. It will then be ready to use and should have killed most larvae and eggs.

The stuff that you have that has too much soil in it can be added to new compost through the year.

Best of luck

Gwynn
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Post  sgeades 5/21/2011, 6:01 pm

Thanks for the advice Gwynn. I wonder if when letting it sit we should cover the pile with clear plastic and then some straw and then some more plastic to really heat things up and kill all the larvae. I don't know if it would work or if it might just kill off all the microorganisms and stop the decomposition process. But then I wonder if I could just add some more soil for microorganisms and turn again to finish up. This is just a theory. I'm really not sure I want to use the compost at all unless I'm pretty pausitive there is no larvae left in there at all.

Does anybody know for sure?

Thanks!
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