[permaculture] Moldy Compost

Juergen Botz jurgen at botz.org
Sat Jul 11 05:07:41 EDT 2009

On 07/09/2009 06:01 PM, Ella Rozin wrote:
> I have a large compost barrel on the roof of my brooklyn loft building.
> Apparently some of the residents have thrown bread, rice and other wheat
> products in the compost and now it is molding...!

As others have said, mold is not a problem... it is in fact
quite part of the solution.  All composts have mold (fungi),
and in large scale composting it is usually a goal to
have white mold completely colonize the pile within a
few days of making it.  The white mold gets the
process started and itself becomes food for other

Humans have a  bad image of molds and other fungi, but
just like most bacteria are not pathogens, most molds
are entirely necessary and beneficial.  Making up one
of the 3 macroscopic kingdoms of life, fungi are different
from both plants and animals and play an equally
important role in nature.  In fact, on land fungi are the
/primary/ decomposers... although bacteria play an
important role, most terrestrial biomass gets recycled
by fungi.  They are also masters of chemistry and there
probably isn't a manmade substance that cannot be
broken down by some fungus under the right conditions,
including plastics, pesticides, and pharmaceuticals.
Thank Gaia!

> Can the compost be salvaged...  Someone said it can be with worms and some
> newspaper...

You don't /really/ need to do anything... you could just let
the mold do its job breaking down the bread and rice,
when it's done it will become food for bacteria and various
invertebrates.  In fact, that is what is going to happen no
matter what you do, it just may not be as obvious.

However, since your neighbors have probably been
throwing in pure food without paying attention to
compost balance, it's a good idea to add some dry
matter, i.e. newspaper, dry leaves or wood shavings
to restore the carbon/nitrogen ratio and keep the pile
from getting too wet and anaerobic.  The worms are
entirely optional... but since on your rooftop you
probably don't get too many volunteer invertebrates in
your compost, adding some might be a good idea.


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