Dear Dr Compost ...

Have you read ALL the instructions?  Ben Elms gives composting advice to Ann Fowler at the Wanaka A&P Show. Photo: Tessa Payze
Have you read ALL the instructions? Ben Elms gives composting advice to Ann Fowler at the Wanaka A&P Show. Photo: Tessa Payze
Dr Compost, aka Ben Elms, was at the Wanaka A&P Show at the weekend and fielded some interesting questions. Here are some of the ‘‘best’’ ones.

Dear Dr Compost

My compost heap and I have been together for many years. Early on in our relationship he started to let himself go, and these days his personal hygiene borders on offensive. When I walk past him in the garden, I can't ignore his powerful odour which I can only describe as ''stinky''. When I prod him with the garden fork, he's slimy, almost putrid. I'm also worried about his choice of friends, he attracts a crowd of small flies and vermin who, I'm sure, are taking advantage of him. I'm not sure how much more I can take before I give up on him.

Can you help?


Dear Margerie

Your compost heap is indeed in a sorry state, I'm not surprised you're on the brink of walking away. Not to worry, I've seen many a compost heap start to lose his way, but with a little work and love, you can have a heap you're proud to be seen with.

It sounds like your heap needs a change in diet, some more roughage is the place to start. Try feeding him some straw, wood chips and/or shredded cardboard. Give him similar amounts in volume as the food scraps, manure and grass clippings he's consuming. To help him with his failing complexion, try putting a rain cover on him. This will keep him dry during rain events, and moisturised during hot, dry weather.

Please don't give up on him, you've come this far. If you jilt him, he will only go and make a bigger smellier mess somewhere else, and that's not good for the rest of us.

Good luck.

The Dr


Dear Dr Compost

A Bokashi bucket composting system. Photo: Supplied
A Bokashi bucket composting system. Photo: Supplied
Why, oh why, do I bother with these Bokashi buckets? I read the instructions, did everything she asked me to do, but it's still not working. Every time I try to do the right thing and dig the contents of the bucket into the vegetable garden, the smell is unbearable. The wilt on my vegetables can't go on any longer. I want them to stand tall, have some ompha and satisfy.

Please Doctor, what's your advice?


Dear Barney

These things can happen as we get older. Did you really read ALL of the instructions? Often we skim over them and don't take in some key points that are key to success. I have the answer so you can get more juice out of your life, in fact, it's all about the juice.

When was the last time you drained the juice from that bottom bucket? No one's going to be satisfied if you don't. For a healthy system, you need to take off the liquid every 2-3 days, pour it into a watering can and dilute to the top with water. Then go out and give this biological goodness to your plants. You and your plants will very quickly find their perkiness again.

-The Dr


Dear Doctor Compost,

I'm sad. My owner keeps overfeeding me. I can't cope. I want to be big and strong, but there's just so much food every day, all I want to do is run away.

Walter the Worm

Dear Walter the Worm,

Don't worry you're not alone, there are millions of you being overfed. Worms are not good at overeating, so instead of an obesity epidemic, we see failed worm farms everywhere. Your owners need to take it easy and to feed you less often. Ask them to hold off feeding you more until you've nearly eaten all of the last meal, that should do the trick. You could even be really demanding and get all them to cut all your food into small pieces to make it faster and easier for you to eat. Good luck with surviving.

-The Dr

-The Dr Compost project is funded by QLDC and delivered by Wastebusters to reduce organic waste going to landfill. Food and garden waste can break down in the landfill to release methane, a harmful climate change gas.

Free workshops

Free ‘‘Easy ways to compost’’ workshops. —

Wanaka: Wednesday, March 20, from 6pm-8pm, St John’s Rooms, 4 Link Way.

Queenstown: Thursday, March 21, from 6pm-8pm, Sherwood, 554 Frankton Rd.

Places are limited. Book at, through the Dr Compost Facebook page or email

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