Why Is My Compost Turning White?

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You went out to your compost bin expecting to see rich black compost, but you saw something that is white. You are wondering what causes compost to turn white and why. There are a couple of possible explanations, and we will break them down in this post. Keep reading to learn more. 

White fungus or mycelium grows on compost piles and is a good sign that the organic matter is breaking down properly.  White bacteria may look like fungus but is also a byproduct of decomposition. There is nothing bad or harmful about having white fungus, mold, mycelium, or bacteria in your compost.

Now that you know the white stuff in compost is actually good for the decomposition of organic matter, you probably have more questions. You might wonder if there are other signs that compost has gone bad or if there is an expiration for good compost. You might also wonder if you should try to get rid of the white stuff or fungus in the compost. This post will answer all of the questions you have. 

Homemade garden compost heap with leaf mould for use as a mulch or organic fertilizer, Why Is My Compost Turning White?

Why Is My Compost Turning White?

White fungus, mold, or mycelium is natural and expected to occur during the decomposition of organic matter. It is a good sign that your compost is breaking down. White mold or fungus usually grows on pieces of wood, while compost from food will usually develop green mold. You cannot prevent mold in a compost pile, and there is no reason to. You do want to make sure that the compost pile is mixed correctly and turned regularly. 

What Is The White Stuff In Compost?

Different things in compost could be white. The most common thing you will see in the compost pile is mold or fungus. This will grow on pieces of wood in your compost pile. You may also find white bacteria that look like fungus. This is also good for the decomposition process and is not a concern for the health of your compost.

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Maggots may also show up in your compost pile, and they are beneficial for breaking down the organic matter more quickly. There are some drawbacks to having maggots in your compost because the nutrients they consume will be taken away from the nutrients in your compost soil. For a comprehensive breakdown of this topic, check out this post: Grubs Or Maggots In Compost – What To Do?

Is White Mold In Compost Bad?

White mold is expected to occur in your compost pile and is a sign that the matter is decomposing properly. You want to make sure you are aerating the pile regularly, but not too frequently. Turn the pile once every four to five weeks at a minimum. You can turn the pile more frequently to speed up the decomposition process, but it should not be more frequently than every three days. 

What Does Bad Compost Look Like?

Compost can never really go bad, so any problems with the health of your compost pile can be corrected. The smell is the most likely indicator that your compost pile needs some attention. A healthy compost pile will not give off a pungent smell that is like the smell of rotting eggs. The pungent smell usually comes from one or a combination of factors. 

Why Does My Compost Pile Smell Bad?

You should have an even ratio of about 50 percent green compost to 50 percent brown compost. If your ratio is way out of balance with too much green organic material, you may end up with a pungent smell. The foul smell can also come from a lack of aeration. You can correct this by turning the compost pile weekly or as frequently as every three days. 

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How To Get Rid Of Fungus In Compost?

You cannot get rid of the fungus in compost. The fungus and mold that grow are part of the decomposition process. This is a sign of a healthy compost pile. If you smell mold around your compost pile, you can turn it over to aerate the pile. This might remove some of the smell, and turning the compost regularly will produce the best compost. The composting process occurs more quickly when you have mold and regular turning of the pile. 

What Will Happen If You Left The Compost Too Long?

Leaving compost too long shouldn’t cause any major issues with your pile. Your compost may be anaerobic, which means it will be smelly if there is too much moisture. The part of the pile that has been exposed to sunlight and elements will deplete over time. Worms and bacteria cannot survive prolonged direct sun exposure, which will impact the quality of your compost. 

How Often Should I Turn The Compost?

For the best results, you should turn your compost every three to seven days. This can help prevent the compost from smelling bad and will increase the decomposition process. This rule applies to compost tumblers and compost piles. Turning the compost provides airflow that is necessary for the process.

Turning the compost pile consistently will not remove mold, but it will prevent smell. If you are turning a pile that is already smelly, then you may increase the bad smell at that moment. The smell will dissipate after the pile settles. Compost piles will heat in the middle but need to be turned to bring new materials toward the center where the heat is located. This will provide you with the fastest and best compost. 

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How Much Green And Brown Compost Should I Have?

Having too much green compost in your pile may cause an overload of nitrogen, which will cause the pile to smell bad. It will also take longer for the pile to decompose fully. By most calculations, you should have three or four parts of brown organic matter for every one part of green organic matter. 

Making a good compost pile is a balance of nitrogen and carbon, which comes from the materials you add. The green compost provides nitrogen, and the brown compost provides carbon. Finding the right balance will provide you with the most nutrient-dense compost, and the decomposition process will occur very quickly. 

What Color Should My Compost Be?

You know that compost is ready to use when it is dark brown and crumbly. Your compost pile will be a mix of brown and green organic matter that you put in the pile. You will see white mold and fungus during the composting process, along with the colors of the organic matter. 

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What Should I Put In My Compost?

Any yard waste from non-diseased plants or trees works as brown organic matter for your compost pile. Grass clippings are also good for compost, but they are classified as green organic matter along with your kitchen scraps. Fruits, vegetables, and eggshells will make up most of your green organic matter. You should keep the green compost to less than a quarter of the total matter added to your compost. 

Homemade garden compost heap with leaf mould for use as a mulch or organic fertilizer, Why Is My Compost Turning White?

What Shouldn’t I Put In My Compost?

The most common things people put in the compost that they should avoid are dairy products and meat. Eggshells are fine for composting, but you should avoid cheese, milk, or meat. These things can bring harmful bacteria and may also attract rats or other vermin to your compost pile. 

Check out this post for a bigger list and discussion about things you should not include in your compost pile: 20 Things Not To Put In Your Compost

In Closing

Compost is expected to have white mold or fungus. This is a clear sign that the organic matter is decomposing effectively. Compost might also contain white bacteria that look like fungus. This bacteria is also beneficial for breaking down the organic matter more quickly. There is no concern for the health of your compost pile if you have white fungus or bacteria. 

For more information about composting in your garden or farm, check out these resources:

Where To Buy A Composter [Top 40 Online Stores]

Compost Pile vs. Bin – Which Is Right For You?

What To Put In A Compost Pile To Start It Going?

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