Can I compost in winter?
Yes you can. Although your compost heap may look inactive during winter, it
will usually be working in the middle, although at a much slower pace. Remember to always
insulate the pile with a brown layer.
What do I do in summer?
Indian summers are very hot and the contents in the GEM could warm up to a very high
temperature. This could lead to death of our friendly bacteria and destabilise the
process. You must add adequate quantity of soil and water and preferably keep it under
What about the monsoons?
No problem. Just ensure that the top lid is closed, otherwise excess moisture can
cause odour and leachate.
Nothing is happening in my GEM, what do I do?
It is possible that the balance is off in the bin and you may need carbon material (brown). Add more
brown and mix thoroughly.
Do I need seeding ?
The microorganisms that enable composting are naturally present in wastes or they grow under
conducive environmental conditions. Therefore seeding of compost heap is not required. Moreover,
scientific tests using commercially available compost inoculums showed no specific increased benefits
over natural sources of organisms. For your satisfaction, If at all, you can make compost tea(!) by putting
some fresh compost in a bucket of water which can be sprinkled on the waste pile in your GEM from time
Should I use an accelerator?
Accelerators claim to speed up the composting process. Basically they contain concentrated amounts
of elements already present in a well-used GEM. They certainly seem to work but adding a small amount
of fresh grass cuttings, nettles or coffee grounds will have the same effect. Perhaps the most readilyavailable
compost accelerator is human urine, but we do not recommend this technique in urban
Can I compost evergreen material?
Evergreen material takes a long time to decompose, over five years in some cases. In general they are
very acidic and the leaves or needles tend to have an almost rubbery texture. There is no reason not to
include them, except for their slow decomposition. We suggest that these should be added in small
Can I introduce the earthworms?
There is no need to do so! One of the problems is that the earthworms are very sensitive
to high (typically >45°C in the middle of the heap) as well as low temperatures.
Especially during summer and peak winters they will stop singing the song and may die !
Moreover, they are expensive and also difficult to separate from the finished compost.
What should I do if my GEM smells?
There are two possible reasons for this type of problem. Firstly you may have too many
GREENS and not enough BROWNS. If you haven’t added Browns in a while, put some
in. If you don’t have any dried leaves handy, shred some newspaper and mix it in or
sprinkle some soil. The second most likely problem is that your compost pile may be
lacking in oxygen. To fix it, simply turn the material over with a garden rake a few times.
The smell will be gone in a day or two. Another reason could be excess moisture. In that
case mix the contents in the GEM, add extra soil/leaves and do not water it for couple of
I don't have much BROWN material !
The most readily available BROWN materials are dry leaves, newspapers and cardboard. You only need
about 10 newspapers a year for each compost bin. It should be torn into strips or as individual sheets
rolled into balls before adding it in. About half a tabloid newspaper should be added every couple of
weeks or so if no other ‘BROWNS’ are available. Plain brown cardboard can also be used, again make
sure it is damp and cut into smaller pieces. Avoid too much coloured cardboard as some of the inks can
be toxic. It is also a good practice to keep few bags full of dry leaves when they are available in plenty
during the fall season. You can also ask your garbage collector to deliver it at your home.
I have flies in my GEM?
You have forgotten to put a brown layer on top of the kitchen waste. The fastest and surest
way is to immediately throw Neem Khali (Deoiled cake of Neem seeds available at garden shops or nurseries) on top. You can also use shredded newspaper
or handful of soil, ash, dry leaves or old compost on top of the heap. Ensure that you
mix up the heap at least once every two weeks with a garden rake.
Will I get animals in my compost pile?
Not if you put the correct materials in your pile. No meat, bones, dairy products (e.g.,
curd, split milk, cheese), fatty materials, or oil should be put into your compost pile.
These materials break down very slowly, and will attract unwanted guests in the
GEM eco-system. Remember all kitchen waste should be covered by
BROWNS, (such as dried leaves). Animals are a very rare occurrence in a
properly managed compost pile. Again, the GEM has been designed in such a
way that rodents cannot enter.