All Things Gardening forum: Can you compost right next to the house?

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BrockMeeks
Apr 21, 2018 10:46 AM CST
I have a nasty little spot that receives only morning sunlight and gets taken over by weeds very quickly in the year. It's an absolute eyesore and would finally like to put it to some use.

Further down that side of the house I have a nice little shade garden where Dogwoods allow for really nice hydrangeas and hosta, so I know that I could do something with the spot but I had another idea.

I have been working hard like the rest of you weeding and clearing out beds and as I was hauling a huge load of debris (all fluff. No sticks) I thought that I shouldn't leave this on the corner for the city to pick up. I should be composting it.

I have beds all around the house and at the bottom of the drive, but the real work is the garden in back. I've been working on it for 3 years now and it's doing well but I can imagine that some compost would do wonders.

Is it dangerous to have it so near the house? Will the smell be off putting? I know it "cooks" at a fairly high temperature and I do not want to put myself or the house in any danger.

There are two reasons I want it there and not to have to build a bin out of pallets in the back of the yard. 1. It's easy to access from the yard and the house. As you can see I just have to drop things from the kitchen off of the porch and it's very near for turning. 2. Winter. I know that spring is when I'll need the compost the most and the idea of lugging buckets the the back of yard from December-March doesn't appeal.

Pleas any advice would be appreciated and thanks for taking the time to look over my problem.

Brock. West Tennessee. Zone 7B/8A
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[Last edited by BrockMeeks - Apr 21, 2018 10:53 AM (+)]
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Name: Betty
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daylilydreams
Apr 21, 2018 11:02 AM CST
Welcome to NGA! I would not put your compost there since you plan on putting kitchen waste into the pile it could draw in critters which you likely would not want close to the house. One of my sisters had a neighbor put a compost pile next to their house and it smelled bad since air movement was restricted.

You could get rid of the weeds by putting down a layer of cardboard boxes and covering them with a decorative mulch like bark. The cardboard will smother the weeds by not allowing light to get thru to the ground.


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[Last edited by daylilydreams - Apr 21, 2018 11:10 AM (+)]
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BrockMeeks
Apr 21, 2018 11:22 AM CST
Thank you Betty.

What if kitchen waste was keep at a minimum. There is so much lawn waste. It really is a shame for the city to take it off when I could have a great, nutrient rich compost for the years to come.

I know that heaps tend to attracted mice and whatnot, but would a lawn waste compost heap be any danger so close to the house?
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MindiHammerstone
Apr 21, 2018 12:09 PM CST
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Mindi
Name: Betty
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daylilydreams
Apr 21, 2018 12:58 PM CST
Brock, compost bins allow for air circulation on all sides not sure it would break down as well with what looks like two sides of the brick on your house. Looks like it would be close to a window not sure if you open that window, but if you do and anyone in your household who has allergies wet or damp compost can smell moldy and could cause problems for them. I am not sure about safety factors as far overheating of the compost. I would just put a nice looking bin or two somewhere else in your yard for your composting purposes in a location or locations that are workable. There is a forum here on soil and composting they may have more input for you. https://garden.org/forums/view...
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[Last edited by daylilydreams - Apr 21, 2018 1:07 PM (+)]
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Name: greene
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greene
Apr 21, 2018 5:32 PM CST
There would be no danger to your house as far as I can see. Plus it seems it would be out of sight from the street.

If you layer the compost and keep the kitchen waste covered with dry material such as lawn clippings it should be okay. I would have it touching the brickwork but would keep it at least 12-18 inches away to allow for good air circulation.

You could make a simple circle of fence wire or spend money to buy a plastic compost bin. I like the idea that is it near the kitchen and would be easy for you to empty your kitchen container but you'd still have to step off the porch to cover each addition.

I'd say give it a try. If you don't like having the bin in that location it is simple enough to relocate it a bit further from the house. Thumbs up
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Name: Chris
Hermann, MO (Zone 6a)
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FoolOnTheHill
Apr 22, 2018 6:52 PM CST
I agree

If you have a lot of yard waste, it looks like you might have room for 2 piles. One, being extra brown/dry stuff to add as needed. Otherwise, if you can put a pile of dry in the back, and wouldn't mind hauling it when needed, that could be good. Here's why. You can cover your pile with dirt and/or a lot of brown and it's not going to smell AND you can mix in a lot of brown, and it's not going to smell.

The compost pile shouldn't cause problems for the brick (I don't know the state of your mortar, something wet wouldn't be good on crumbling mortar), but irrespective, you want some air circulation to keep things cooking, anyway, so don't put it directly against the house. Recommendations from green above would keep it off your foundation, with air all around, but still accessible. BTW - nothing on the edges is going to get that hot. A truly hot pile only happens with the right mix, and a large mass, and it's still only the center that gets really hot.

I used to compost in the city, and even had a fellow who lived in apartments nearby bring his incredibly smelly kitchen scraps to compost in our yard. He only came periodically, and would bring it in a big lidded bucket. When he'd pour it on, it could make you lose your lunch! However, I'd churn it in with stuff already breaking down, and then throw some browns on from another bin, and presto - smell taken care of. The worms in the pile would make fast work of it, and all out of sight and smell to me. I'll admit, I've never had an issue with smell maybe partially because I always do bin piles that I turn (with a big manure fork) - and lately a compost tumbler. However, as long as it's active, and you cover the nastiness with some dry material, the living things will address the waste quickly. My Belgian Sheepdog that I had in the city was a hunter by nature, and she got excited every time I turned our piles because they were full of night crawlers. She'd catch them one by one and set them down to catch another, and then I'd throw them all back in once turning was finished. She usually ignored the red wigglers, I guess because they were smaller.

If it ever smells: add dry brown materials and mix, and put dirt and/or dry on top. Fix you up every time Thumbs up
Name: Chris
Hermann, MO (Zone 6a)
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FoolOnTheHill
Apr 22, 2018 10:09 PM CST
As I was drifting off, got to thinking I should add: You want to keep the pile damp, but not soggy. If it gets soggy, it might start to smell in a small pile or plastic container. I didn't have this problem in my big piles in bins, as the piles were large enough that they had pretty good drainage, and because I had shredded leaves and usually a little soil on the very top at all times. Wet just smelled like wet leaves. Dry doesn't usually smell, but it slows things down a lot, and if you've been adding to a dry pile for a while, and then it gets soggy, there's nothing to break down all the stuff at once, and it can get smelly then. But, just a little tending and you shouldn't have odor issues.

However, I do recommend pallet bins if you want to process a lot of kitchen and yard waste quickly. Mine in the city had slats in the front, that I just lifted out to turn with the manure fork or for shoveling it out. Here's some pics of the bins I had in our home in a small urban yard, and a picture from one time when we were on a garden tour, showing the size of the yard and the bins in the back by the detached garage (if you look closely). This size allows for the pile to heat up nicely, is easy to turn, and I didn't even have to cover them because there was enough drainage (YMMV - some folks need to cover, I hear). BTW - the leaves weren't shredded in this pic, and I don't always, but they'll break down and mix in easier if they are.


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Frillylily
Apr 24, 2018 11:38 AM CST
moisture and rotten stuff up next to a house will give you termites. I would never do it for that reason alone.
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pdermer1x
Apr 26, 2018 6:18 AM CST
Another idea, though they might be too small and/or too expensive. There are compost drums that can be turned easily (think concrete truck on very small scale). I've got a very picky city friend with one right next to his house and he swears by it - never any smell. I'm sure you can google them online; there may be some large enough for your needs.
Name: stone
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stone
Apr 26, 2018 3:35 PM CST
BrockMeeks said:I have a nasty little spot that receives only morning sunlight and gets taken over by weeds very quickly in the year. It's an absolute eyesore and would finally like to put it to some use.

Brock. West Tennessee. Zone 7B/8A
Thumb of 2018-04-21/BrockMeeks/9ae095


Is it dangerous to have it so near the house? Will the smell be off putting? I know it "cooks" at a fairly high temperature and I do not want to put myself or the house in any danger.


Are you suggesting piling the compost up against the bricks???

I wouldn't pile compost against the house... and not because of any odor... I've never noticed an odor from the compost... but... what compost can do to the house... and not just the termites... but the entire process... wood decomposes in compost piles... there is wood behind that brick facade... bricks are porous...

Personally, I like to leave the compost out in the garden.
By piling it in the garden, I am improving the soil under the pile... any compost produced is where I need it.
I usually don't spread it far... just level it out a bit and start a new pile with the top layer or so that isn't composted yet.


Sheena57
Apr 19, 2019 12:24 PM CST
Hi All. I have a very basic compost question: I gave my husband a composting kit for Christmas - plastic bin on a base for our smallish city garden. Most of what has gone into the bin since starting at the end of December has been garden clippings plus a lot of fresh vegetable/fruit waste. It is 'stirred' now and again and a little moisture added. Precisely nothing seems to be happening, but there are thousands of tiny flies on the inside and outside of the bin. Is this normal? Is the lack of action due to the process being started at the coldest period of the year? Any tips from you experts out there - and please, do tell us about basic errors, as we don't mind being treated as the gardening idiots we truly are!
One other question: We have just planted a new little magnolia close to the composting bin, as this is the most ideal spot for the tree in our difficult north-east facing garden. Does anyone think the flies around the compost bin could be a hazard to the tender little tree?
Thanks in anticipation of learning from your expertise.
Sheena
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crawgarden
Apr 19, 2019 12:45 PM CST
Hi Sheena,

You also need to have carbon in the mixture (dried leaves work great, shredded newspaper etc.), grass clipping and veg and fruit refuse is all nitrogen, in the profile section you initially filled out there is the ability to show what zone you are in which helps in answering some of the questions. I live in zone 4b, my compost is still needs to thaw out. Sincerely doubt the flies would be a hazard to the tree, but rather more than a nuisance.

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oneeyeluke
Apr 27, 2019 11:18 AM CST
I add a couple of coffee cans of poultry mix fertilizer to my compost pile, to heat it up, when it gets cold, and stir it well. If it still doesn't heat up, then I repeat until it gets hot, and breaks down. Been doing it for years.
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skits
Apr 29, 2019 12:50 PM CST
I love my compost piles. But they're not pretty. I do grow morning glories around it to hide it, but they're slow to get moving. Mine are made of pallets. They're next to the attached garage, about 15 feet to the nearest door to the house. I haven't had any critters bothering it. Besides the free "gold," it cuts down on my kitchen garbage and I don't have to fill the street with leaves or grass clippings. I've become a hoarder of sorts, but cannot offer the service to my neighbors who continue to poison their lawns (and water).
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sallyg
May 2, 2019 7:44 AM CST
For the original question-
Compost can be managed to minimize most of the bad things people are posting. But that does take management.
Have you composted before? Things do not happen fast and surefire the way lots of literature wants to say.
My advice would be use this area for some collection and partial composting, but assume it is not going to finish there. Figure out another place to finish or place any more buggy stuff. A lot of people like a 2 or 3 bin system so you can find finished compost without picking out too much fresh stuff.
Termites are and always will be around my house, I don't know that composting yard and kitchen waste will foster them. Maybe set the collection up on blocks, not direct ground contact will slow them down. Also use termite baits in ground around the house if concerned.
Agreed for sure, you need a container of some kind to leave room between the compost and brick. I expect you knew that. I'm picturing something 'attractive' so to speak, right next to the house.
I've 'composted' on a medium management level for decades- meaning, I do some of what's recommended and don't sweat all of it. So I have medium speed and success.
Right now my bin has some fall leaves leftover but getting kitchen waste, and thus, lots of fungus gnats. Because of those, I have it well away from the house, but yes, we have to trek over to it every few days with kitchen waste. When the weather warms, it will be taken over by soldier flies, and gnats will be gone.
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