Q: This is my year to shine in the garden with compost! I have a plastic compost bin. Yet I constantly fight fire ants in the compost and find everything is slow to decompose. Every book I read makes composting sound so simple but mine still needs help.
A: You need to add some patience to the pile! Compost happens eventually – even for the novice. Other than being a nuisance, fire ants actually help a compost pile. They introduce oxygen into the center and help you avoid having to regularly flip the pile. If they really bother you, scatter some fire ant bait nearby and let them bring enough back to kill the colony.
If you want things to decompose faster, water the pile with a gallon of houseplant fertilizer, mixed according to label directions. This will supply vital nitrogen to the bacteria that disintegrate your landscape trimmings.
Keep in mind that piles decompose slower in winter than in summer…cold affects the necessary biological processes. Try stacking hay bales around the bin to insulate it. Eventually the hay will make compost too.