Question from Moira:

Thanks for your postcard last month! I’ve stopped roasting my arm in the compost, substituting a compost crank.

It’s easy to use and saved us the expense of buying a tumbler bin. There are worms, pill bugs, ants and other critters in the compost, so I’m happy to have found a good tool. Question: should I try to screen/remove pill bugs from our compost before I apply it to next year’s garden? I read that they are destructive.

Answer from Pat:

I am glad you have stopped putting bare arms into compost. Though compost contains many beneficial fungi, some of these can cause skin problems. Also be sure not to breath in the fumes from warm compost since this can lead to lung problems.

Hot compost gets rid of insects since heat kills them. Slow compost involves many creatures who actually are part of the process, and there is no practical way to remove them. However, if you wait until the compost is completely rotted so you can no longer discern what was in it, then it is safe to dig it into the ground and this will kill most of the insects remaining in it. As far as pill bugs go they do no harm except to strawberries. Always keep pill bugs away from strawberries. No problem anywhere else since all they are doing is eating organic matter, such as partially rotted leaves and debris and helping to break it down.


Photo by Tony Buser

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