A Taste of Gardening

Composting and Critters

To discourage animals from raiding the backyard compost, recommends mixing kitchen garbage with soil or wood ashes before burying it in the hot center of your compost pile. Photo: LexnGer, courtesy Flickr.

Dear EarthTalk: My husband and I want to start a garden this year. I really want to make compost from leftover food scraps and yard materials. He says it will attract unwanted animals, and refuses to agree to it. Is he right? If so, how do we deal with that issue in a green-friendly, non-lethal way?
--Carmen Veurink, Grand Rapids, MI

It's true that outdoor compost piles and bins can be a draw for wildlife—be it bears, rats, raccoons, skunks, opossums or some other creatures of the night—but there are ways to minimize the attraction. For one, make sure everyone in your household knows to keep meat, bones, fish, fat and dairy out of the compost. Not only will these items "overheat" the compost pile, they'll also stink it up and attract animals.

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