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Flies in compost

Q: My compost pile, which largely consists of kitchen scraps, is infested with flies. What can I do to get rid of these bugs?

Linda Campbell, Santa Cruz, CA

A: Larry Barkley, volunteer Master Composter in Nuevo, California, replies: Some bugs present in a compost pile are beneficial. Flies are not. Most likely, you are throwing too much kitchen waste into the mix, and the flies are attracted by the odor of the rotting scraps.

The health of your compost pile depends upon the ratio of carbon to nitrogen, plus a good amount of ­oxygen. Brown and bulky materials such as dried manure, sawdust, dried leaves, and dried grass clippings are considered to be high in carbon. High-nitrogen ­materials, like fresh grass clippings and kitchen scraps, are often green and moist. A balance of both types is what you want.

To amend your pile, I recommend adding a proportionate amount of brown and bulky materials to your composted kitchen scraps.  This balance will ­pro­mote odorless decay, absorb excess water, enhance the breakdown of scraps into a rich soil amend­ment, and will eliminate any bug problems. Also, turn the pile every once in a while to inject a healthy dose of oxygen.

For more on composting techniques and equipment, see All About Compost on VegetableGardener.com.

From Fine Gardening 57, pp. 14