Composting

Texture - leafs

It seems a shame that after making an effort to eat locally grown meat, vegetables and fruit we end up trucking our spoils to landfill when we could be feeding them back to the earth.

Composting is a natural process of decomposing of organic waste, material like leaves, fruit and vegetable scraps which turns them into a rich soil fondly nicknamed “Black Gold”. Farmers have been composting for centuries to produce and use the resultant fertilizer. It certainly is most efficient to compost where the sources live, but that is not always possible as we continue our urban expansion away from farms.

The good news is that even City dwellers can easily and efficiently compost on a smaller scale and reap the benefits.

Mulch the Black Gold into potted plants (both indoors and out), spread it in gardens at any time of the year and reap some of the following soil improvement benefits:

• Build up good soil structure which protects plants from many diseases.
• Feed earthworms and microbial life in the soil.
• Assist the soil to retain water, nutrients and air, providing some drought resistance.
• Maintain a neutral pH.

Composting accelerates the natural decay of organic matter. Decay will occur without human intervention but controlling the process will help to garner benefits of a more nutrient rich soil fertilizer. Optimization comes from a good balance of carbon and nitrogen. The balance facilitates the microbes’ and worms’ processes which results in a much faster decaying process , with less odor, a darker brown, healthier, rich and damp compost.

In all composting methods, the goal is to get an approximate 50/50 mix of “green” and “brown” materials. The “brown matter” (high in carbon), what is referred to as woody matter , things like paper, leaves, bark, sawdust etc . The “Green matter” (high in nitrogen) are things like grass clippings, food scraps, coffee grounds etc.

City dwellers throw away significant amounts of organic matter that can be easily turned into precious compost.  Yard waste and food scraps are estimated to make up approximately 35% of our waste. Unfortunately when this organic matter goes into our landfill, it breaks down quite slowly because of lack of air. Our wonderful organic produce may end up producing methane gas, a deadly greenhouse gas in a not so green afterlife.

You can compost if you live in a tiny apartment, a condo, a house, even away at the cottage and trailer. There are ways to break down your organic matter. Many communities are deploying waste strategies to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill. Composting is becoming mandatory in some areas. So let’s get started and take a look at some of the common composting methods.

City, Regional, Municipal …..Composting             Bin Garbage Trash

Many organic waste programs work in conjunction with waste and recycling programs. In many communities Compost bins are picked up on a regular basis, usually weekly or bi-weekly as part of recycling and waste collection and in some cases for a small fee. In our community, garbage is picked up every 2nd week and there is a two bag limit. You have to buy tags to dispose of any extra garbage or take to the landfill for a fee. To encourage residents to reduce waste, recyclables (blue bins) and the green bins (compost) are picked up weekly. The program has helped divert almost 30% of waste from landfill from the volume a year ago – participation is high in the Region for residents to fill their recycling and green bins.
The programs and items allowed in the bin vary from place to place (Check your local program details).
In general, compostable organic waste allowed:
• Food scraps such as fruits, vegetables, meat, skin, bones etc.
• Soiled tissue, paper, newspapers
• Compostable packaging, paper plates, cups, glasses
• Dairy products
• Hair (human or pet)
• Pet waste

Compost Bins

Image result for black compost bin

A great way to enclose and collect household and backyard organic waste, ideal with a locking lid. Requires some maintenance as it should be kept moist,  but not soggy,  like a damp sponge. Works best if you layer the brown and green matter.  Can be left  and not turned but if you do turn the contents,  the organic material will certainly break down much faster. Many designs are available, the advantage of the one  shown is that it allows you to open it at the bottom and pull out compost at various times.

In general, compostable organic waste:
• Food scraps such as fruits, vegetables, meat, skin, bones etc.
• Soiled tissue, paper, newspapers
• Compostable packaging, paper plates, cups, glasses
• Dairy products
• Hair (human or pet)
• Pet waste

Compost Tumbler

                                                                                                                      

Tumblers are the middle maintenance choice (between the pile and the bin methods) if you have a yard.  They don’t take up a whole lot of room.  They are ideal to get air mixing into the organic matter.  The bin is turned on a regular basis speeding up the composting time.  The enclosure of a Compost Tumbler reduces and helps to curtail pests. In the right conditions, this method can provide you usable compost in as little as a few weeks.

Worm bins

Worm Bins are another option to compost in the city. A Worm Bin is easy to make and can easily fit in a smaller spaces. You do have to keep the bin inside; worms do not do well in extreme temperatures. Food waste must be cut or shredded into small pieces taking care to add only as much food that the worms can eat, and as mentioned before for all methods, you need to keep a good mix of brown and green matter. If taken care of properly, there is no need to fear smells from a Worm Bin.

What to feed the worms:
• Fruits, Vegetables
• Cereal, Bread, grains, crackers
• Coffee grinds, filters, Tea bags

What not to feed them:
• Dairy products like milk, cheeses, yogurt
• Oils or fat rich waste
• Meat, fat
• Pet waste

Compost pile

Garden Compost Bin royalty-free stock photo

A Compost pile is one of the easiest and lowest maintenance options for city dwellers if you have a reasonably sized yard and are not planning on moving within the year.  You can simply throw scraps into a pile of composting matter in a corner of your yard. I would suggest blocking it off with lumber and wire mesh to keep rodents from making a mess and adding plants and flowers around it to mask it. The compost pile method is referred to as cold composting, the organic matter is for the most part left alone so it doesn’t reach a higher temperature like it would bin and worm composting. Due to the lower temperature, the process takes a little longer and can create some odor. To help move things along, turn the pile and improve air flow and drainage by adding brown material.

Compost pot or crock

Image result for compost crock

The compost pot or crocks are great to keep in the kitchen, even on the counter top, to hold your scraps before you take them out to the compost bin or pile. You can buy or just as easily make your own using a small container with a lid and air holes to prevent mold.

 

How Compost Helps Your Soil (Source, Planet Natural Research)
• Compost contains nutrients that your plants need for optimum growth, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. And it’s an especially good supplier of micro-nutrients that are needed in small quantities and are sometimes overlooked by gardeners, such as boron, cobalt, copper, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, and zinc. The more varied the materials used to make the compost, the greater the variety of nutrients your compost will provide. In some situations, you will not even need to fertilize soil enriched with compost.

• Nutrients are released at the rate your plants need them. In early spring, as your plants are slowly starting their growth, the microorganisms in compost are slowly releasing nutrients. As the weather warms up and your plants begin rapid growth, the microorganisms also work faster, releasing more food for your plants. Isn’t nature wonderful?
• The organic matter in compost binds with soil particles (sand, silt, and clay) to form small aggregates, or crumbs. Crumbly soil is said to have good structure, as opposed to sand, which has poor structure because it’s too coarse to form aggregates, or clay, which can act like cement when wet. These aggregates hold water on their surfaces, making it available to your plants as they need it. As aggregates form, more spaces are created for oxygen, an essential for good root growth. At the same time, the soil spaces form channels for excess water to percolate through the soil, improving drainage.
• Increases water-holding capacity of soil. Compost can hold an amount of water equal to 200 percent of its dry weight, compared to 20 percent for a low-humus soil.
• Acts as an inoculate to your soil, adding microorganisms and larger creatures such as earthworms and insects, which are nature’s soil builders. The compost environment is teeming with life, and all soils can benefit from such rejuvenation.
• Neutralizes various soil toxins and metals, such as cadmium and lead, by bonding with them so they can’t be taken up by plants.
• Acts as a pH buffer so plants are less dependent on a specific soil pH. The earthworms in the compost help in this process, because in passing organic matter through their bodies they modify the pH of the soil. And you can lower the pH of your soil by adding compost made from acidic raw materials, such as oak or beech leaves, sawdust, and pine needles.
Excerpt from Let it Rot! by Stu Campbell Share

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