WASTE REDUCTION Composting can reduce your household waste by 30%. If everyone composted, it would dramatically reduce the amount of garbage that ends up in the landfill.
SOIL ENRICHMENT Compost improves soil structure which enhances plant growth. It contains micronutrients that plants need.
WATER CONSERVATION Compost helps soil retain moisture which reduces the need for watering.
PREVENTION OF PLANT DISEASE Compost contains natural antibiotics that suppress disease in plants.
How Do I Compost?
BEGIN WITH A BIN You can buy a commercial bin but a homemade one made from four wooden pallets is cheap and effective. It should be at least 1 cubic meter in size (1x1x1 meter) to accommodate enough material to build up heat for decomposition. It should also be ventilated to allow air to flow through the pile. Just a pile or heap is also an option.
LOCATION, LOCATION A sunny spot will help heat the pile up quickly. It should be accessible and close to where the compost will be used. Put the bin on the bare earth to allow soil-bound micro-organisms to help break down the materials.
FEED THE BIN Any vegetable type material, kitchen scraps (greens) – fruits, vegetables, eggshells, coffee grounds and tea bags can be layered with yard waste (browns) – grass clippings and leaves. Small pieces decompose faster so chop up materials such as melon rinds first. Adding a shovel of garden soil over the “greens” will speed up the process and allow air movement. Turn it regularly.
LET IT COOK When the bin is full, continue to turn the material over – more than one bin allows you to move it from one bin to another every week or two. Once it is a pleasant smelling soil-like product, dig it into garden beds.
What Can I Compost?
YARD WASTE Brown, carbon-based materials include: • leaves • grass clippings • wood chips • plant waste, flowers • weeds (before they go to seed) • straw or hay without seeds
KITCHEN WASTE Green, nitrogen-based materials include: • fruits and vegetables • egg shells • tea bags/leaves • coffee grounds/filters • rice, bread, pasta (no oil or sauce)
OTHER • hair • sawdust from non-treated wood • manure
DO NOT COMPOST • bones oils or dressings • fish plants infected • dog or cat waste with disease • dairy products meats, animal • walnut shells/leaves products
• Keep your compost material as moist as a damp sponge – covering it will help keep it from drying out.
• Don’t add thick layers of any one material, particularly grass; mix it with other material instead.
• Use more carbon based material; research shows that 25 or 30 times as much brown, carbon-based materials (dried leaves, straw or shredded newspaper) as green, nitrogen based materials (vegetable waste or manure) is the best ratio.
• Composting can be done year round but the process slows down in the winter.
• Using a compost thermometer will tell you whether the composting process is working well – 140 – 160 F is a good goal.
• Compost can be dug into the soil or layered on top as a mulch to keep down the weeds.
Symptom: Compost has a bad odour. Problem: Not enough air or too wet. Solution: Turn it to aerate/add dry materials.
Symptom: Process appears too slow. Problem: Process is too dry or frozen OR Poor carbon to nitrogen ratio. Solution: Moisten & mix thoroughly. Decomposition will continue in the spring. Add “greens” or “browns” as required.
Symptom: Insects or animal pests. Problem: Meat/fish or fatty foods in composter. Solution: Avoid adding these; dig in all food waste and cover with soil. Symptom: Compost is too wet. Problem: Poor drainage or too much rainfall. Solution: Cover or move to location with good drainage.
Where Can I Get Help?
Come to a community garden, such as the Quesnel Community Garden, 441 Shephard Street or the West Village Community Garden, 325 Lewis Drive where experienced gardeners are happy to give you free advice. Work bee times (posted on the garden fences) are times when there is always someone there to help.