Composting at home

March 24, 2011 at 2:46 am 2 comments

Recycling has become a part of our everyday life, and it is necessary to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in our landfills.  There is another method of reducing the garbage that enters our landfills and it is also related to gardening.  This method is called composting and it involves putting back into the soil organic materials (i.e living things) that were removed from the environment.  Organic materials such as food waste, leaves, paper, wood, coffee grounds, and egg shells can be broken down by insects and bacteria into nutrient- rich soil called humus.  Composting can add nutrients to the soil and also improves soil structure, allowing to retain more moisture.  Additionally, it also helps to reduce our dependency on chemical-based fertilizers and pesticides.

How do you compost?

a) Your first step is to find a container to store your compost pile.  You can choose from a variety of plastic composting containers or you can build one on your own.  The most important thing about the container is where you put it.  Location is important as the compost pile requires good drainage (placing on concrete not a good idea).

b) Secondly you must layer what goes into your compost.  Simply throwing everything into a bin or container is ineffective and will result in a stinky mess. When you layer the compost pile air, heat, and moisture are produced all of which are essential to create good quality compost.   There should be layers which provide nitrogen to the soil such as grass clippings and peanut shells.  There should also be layers which provide carbon to the soil such as leaves, and paper.   The nitrogen provides insects and bacteria with the energy they need to break down carbon materials.

c) Lastly you should maintain the pile and keep track of the composting progress.  Turning the pile with a pitchfork or shovel every two days or less will help speed the process.  Keeping the pile moist (as moist as a wrung-out sponge) allows for insects and bacteria to thrive and continue producing heat while doing the composting work (Harris, 2009).

What can go into the compost?  Grass clippings that have not been sprayed by pesticides, and chopped-up leaves such as maple can be added.  Weeds can also be thrown into the pile, but avoid putting in seedheads and seeds.  Construction leftovers such as sawdust, and ground-up wood chips and kitchen waste such as fruit and vegetable peels can be added to the mix.  Wood ashes from the fireplace and lint from the dryer can even be added to produce compost.

What to avoid putting into the compost?  Meat, bones, and dairy products should be avoided because they attract unwanted guests such as rats and raccoons. Do not place the ashes from the barbeque into the compost heap because they tend to contain toxic materials.  Placing pet feces into a compost pile will do more harm than good due to the risk of Salmonella poisoning.  Please check out the references below for further information about composting (Compost Council of Canada, 2011).

References

Compost Council of Canada “ Compost: the natural way to recycle” http://www.compost.org/natural.html Accessed on March 18, 2011

Harris, M. , 2009. Ecological Gardening “Composting: Garden Gold” Random House Canada

McGill University “Ecological Agriculture Projects: Composting” http://eap.mcgill.ca/publications/eap56.htm Accessed on March 18, 2011

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Entry filed under: Compost. Tags: , , , , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Alexandria Slutskya  |  April 14, 2011 at 9:22 pm

    Hi Michelle,

    I bought a composter last spring and installed it in my yard but a month later my neighbours complained about the odour and the city made me remove the composter. Is it possible that I installed it incorrectly? How much would you generally charge to come take a look and clean it out?

    Thanks

    Alexandria

    Reply
    • 2. EcoScapers  |  April 15, 2011 at 5:19 pm

      Hi Alexandria,
      There could be many reasons why the composter did not work. Since you mentioned you had to remove it, I am curious what you would want us to look at.
      Some things to keep in mind are: Is it in a warm spot that gets at least 4 hours of sun? Do you turn it regularly? Are you putting animal food scraps in it? Have you tried a compost excelorator? Have you added newpaper shredding or hay?
      What area are you in? We do not do compost specific consults, however we do consult, please check us out at http://www.ecoscapers.com and if this is something you may want to have, feel free to fill out the inquiry form.
      Best regards,
      Michelle

      Reply

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