Making your compost for gardening helps you recycle your food waste and fertilize your plants simultaneously. However, gnat invasion can be an annoying addition to your organic compost, whether you keep the pile indoors or out.
Once the gnats take over your sustainably produced compost, you need to be fully prepared with traps and ideas to deal with them. You may have to incorporate more time in your garden, but you can keep the gnats successfully out of your compost by making a few small changes.
When to Take Action Against Gnats
The gnats, also known as fruit flies, are not particularly harmful to the compost or soil. You can ignore them most of the time if there are only a few of them flying here and there. The real problem begins when they are swarming around your compost pile in clouds. Then, you need to take some serious actions against gnats to get rid of them.
How to Keep Gnats Out of Compost?
It is always better to take the required preventive measures when you first start spotting gnats in your garden or near the compost pile. That’s because once you leave them to feed off your garden, they can multiply in numbers faster than you can imagine. Once that stage is there, they will be targeting the fruit bowl on your kitchen counter, and the tomato vines in your fresh vegetable garden in no time.
So How Do You Keep Gnats Out of Your Compost?
There are several tips and tricks you can try to keep the gnats out of the compost. Here are a few of them:
1. Compost With a Proper Ratio
The fruit flies are only attracted to the decomposing fruits and vegetables in your garden compost. The best way to keep the gnats out of compost is by increasing the ratio of brown to green compost. The brown materials should at least be double than that of the greens.
The brown materials can include a great many things, including dried leaves, hay, sawdust, uninked paper, dryer lint, unwaxed cardboard, and paper bags. When you add these items into your green compost, it will dry it out significantly. This, in turn, will force the gnats to steer clear of your compost pile and garden plants.
The insects don’t like to feed on the brown materials, so you can even keep your compost pile without any lid if you try this method yourself. However, remember to layer the top of your compost with only brown items so that no organic good is out in the open to feed on.
2. Set Up a Fruit Fly Trap
If your compost is adequately balanced and the gnats are still flying around your garden, you can buy or set up a homemade fruit fly trap to capture these pesky bugs. There are several kinds of gnat traps to choose from.
However, we recommend you try more than one of the following traps at your home to see which one works more efficiently to trap gnats.
Trap #1 – Liquid Soap and Apple Cider Vinegar Mix
Gnats are strongly attracted to the scents of apple cider vinegar and soap. You can use this to your advantage and make a fruit fly trap that is sure to work.
For constructing this trap, you need to follow the given instructions:
- Pour apple cider vinegar in a small bowl, filling it until it is one-third full.
- Drop ten drops of liquid soap into the vinegar filled bowl.
- Mix some water into the bowl and stir until a foamy lather is formed on the above.
- Now, set the bowl where you have spotted the most gnats around in your garden or near the compost pile.
By doing this, the gnats will promptly fly towards the bowl because of the combined appealing scents of vinegar and soap. When they settle on top of the liquid mixture, they will immediately get trapped inside the bowl in the foam.
Trap #2 – Mashed Bananas with Vinegar
Gnats are attracted to rotten fruits as much as they are to strong-scented vinegar. You can efficiently trap the fruit flies by following the given instructions:
- Mash two bananas in a bowl. Try to use a disposable bowl so you can safely throw the bowl in the trash after the trap has captured the gnats.
- Mix in two tablespoons of vinegar with the mashed bananas. You can use any kind of vinegar, but apple cider vinegar is preferred because of its unfiltered and raw variety.
- After mixing the ingredients, wrap the bowl with a plastic cover.
- Now, make small holes (big enough openings so that the gnats can enter into the bowl but can’t fly out) in the wrapped cover.
Once the gnats are lured into the bowl, they wouldn’t be able to escape because of the plastic cover wrapped on top.
Trap #3 – Liquid Soap, Sugar, Milk, and Black Pepper Combo
Everything in this trap drastically attracts the gnats. Follow these simple steps to capture the fruit flies:
- Take a small bowl and add half a cup of milk into it.
- Add in two tablespoons granulated sugar into the bowl.
- Now, heat the bowl in the microwave oven for a minute. Stir it occasionally to dissolve the sugar in the milk.
- After the milk is heated, add two to three tablespoons of liquid soap and stir it roughly to make a foamy texture on top.
- Sprinkle some black pepper on top of the foam and then place the bowl near the gnats’ central traffic area.
The lather formed on the top layer because of the soap will stick the flies into the mixture, effectively trapping them in.
You can test all of these gnats’ traps and select the winner based on the ultimate results.
3. Lime the Compost
Raising the pH level of compost is another way of ridding the gnats from the compost. You can add lemon juice, citrus peels, or pine needles to increase the compost’s acidic level. However, it would be best if you got a soil pH meter to check the compost’s pH level, as too much acid can be bad for your plants’ growth.
It would also help to check what plants you are growing in your garden and how much acidic compost they can tolerate for a ravishing growth. In general, most plants can thrive in the 6.0 to 7.5 pH range.
4. Combine the Compost With Herbs and Spices Powder
Gnats tend to stay away from the spots where herbs and spices are sprinkled. That’s one way how homeowners deal with the gnat invasion inside their homes. You can take that method to the outside and add some herbs and spices powder in the compost to deter the gnats away.
You can try this method with salt, pepper, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, and garlic powder. You wouldn’t have to worry about affecting the compost quality as it will not upset your plants’ growth in any way.
5. Handle the Scraps in Compost
A few preventive measures can effectively block the potential gnat invasion in your compost pile or gardens. Adding in the scraps into your compost attracts the flies in the first place. You can prevent that from happening by making the fermentation produce less accessible to the gnats.
When you add the kitchen scraps into your garden compost, wrap them up in butcher paper before mixing. Another way is to boil the kitchen scraps before adding them to the compost. By doing this, you will be making your compost a gnats-free zone.
6. Add Coffee and Tea Wastes
Mixing coffee and tea wastes in the compost tremendously works to benefit the soil in your garden, providing added fertilizers and nutrition. It also repels all insects and pests out of the way as its smell makes the compost less attractive to them.
7. Splash With the Boiling Hot Water
Another way of ridding your compost of the gnats is by pouring some boiling hot water into the compost pile. Splash your compost thoroughly with steaming water and then shut off the container’s lid tightly to hold in the heat.
The heat inside the container will instantly kill the gnats living in there as well their eggs. You can try this method a few times a week to make sure no fruit flies are breeding there.
8. Use Vanilla Extract
One of the rarest but effective ways to handle gnats is exposing them to the scene of vanilla. You can safely add some vanilla extract to the compost, and it will help deter the fruit flies away to a certain extent. If possible, you can also spray a light coating of vanilla essence on your plants from time-to-time to steer them clear of gnats.
Either natural vanilla extract or an imitated product can work well for this purpose.
9. Sprinkle Diatomaceous Earth
Lastly, you can sprinkle some diatomaceous earth (DE) on your compost pile and mix it well. The DE is a natural insect repellent that will help deter the gnats from your compost and garden plants.
Now that you know how to keep gnats out of compost, you can fight against these irritating flies when they invade your compost piles or garden plants the next time.