Home With Compost
Compost is a natural process
through which organic material is converted into a soil-like product or humus (pronounced "hue-mous"). The process
works with the help of micro-organisms such as bacteria and fungi
combined with air and moisture.
an important way to recycle and can be done at home. It is an easy
way to reduce the amount of household garbage by about one third.
As well, it produces a valuable soil amendment for use in gardening
What's In the Mix?
Most household organic waste can be composted at home. For backyard or home
composting to work best, it is important to use selected material including:
From the Garden...
Leaves (chopped - to speed their breakdown)
Grass (not wet)
Plants & Weeds (without ripe seeds)
Old potting soil
Soft plant stems
Egg shells (crushed)
Coffee grounds with filters
DO NOT include...
Meat, fish and bones
Fats and oils
Cheese, meat or other sauces
How To Compost
Home composting can be
done with the use of a "build your own" or with a commercial unit,
often available through your municpality.
An important first step
to getting started is to place your composter in a sunny area with good drainage.
Make sure that the location is convenient and accessible year round.
- Turn the soil in the
location where the composter will be.
- After placing the composter,
cover the floor of it with a layer of small branches. This will allow for
air movement and drainage.
- Alternate wet (e.g.
kitchen scraps) and dry (e.g. yard material) waste.
- If available, add some
"finished" compost, garden soil or a compost starter (available
at most garden centres) to the pile. This helps speed up the start of the
Clues on Composting
- The composting process
works best when the organic pieces are small. Weeds and trimmings should
- Don't add thick layers
of any one kind of waste. Grass should not be more than 6 cm deep, leaves
up to 15 cm deep (cut or chop or dry and crumble them). If you can, let
grass dry first or mix it with dry, coarse material such as leaves to prevent
- The composter contents
should be moist like a wrung-out sponge. If the contents are too dry, it
will take overly long to compost; and if too wet, the contents may begin
- Turn or mix the compost
every couple of weeks or each time you add new material. This keeps the
compost well aerated.
- Composting can be done
in the winter. You can add materials to your composter all winter long.
The breakdown process slows down or stops when the pile is frozen, but it
will start up again in the spring. Thorough turning in the spring will reactivate
the pile. Empty the composter in the fall to make plenty of room.
Composting is not difficult but sometimes the process requires a little extra
attention. Here are some easy solutions to correct certain situations which
- If the pile does not
decrease in size or generate heat, composting may need a boost. If the pile
is dry, add water - mixing thoroughly. If the pile is wet and muddy, spread
it in the sun and add dry material. Remember to save "old" compost
to mix with incoming material.
- If the centre of the
pile is damp and warm, but the rest is cold, the pile may be too small.
Try to keep your composter as full as possible. Mix new with old, dry with
wet, breaking up mats and clumps.
- If the pile is damp
and sweet smelling but not heating, it may need nitrogen. Add grass clippings,
table scraps or a sprinkling of organic fertilizer from the garden centre.
- If the compost pile
develops a foul odour, it may not be getting enough air. Loosen up the pile,
break up clumps, unblock vents and perhaps add some wood chips to help the
pile "breathe". Turning the pile always helps aeration.
- Compost in a container
with a cover to prevent animals from getting into the composting materials.
A wire mesh around the base can help to prevent pests from digging under
the pile. Dig in or cover food waste immediately.
Is It Finished Yet?
The composting process can take from 2 months to 2 years, depending on the
materials used and the effort involved. To accelerate the process, the pile
must be a balance between wet and dry material, turn it frequently and make
sure the waste is shredded or in small pieces.
Compost is ready to be used when it is dark in colour, crumbly and has an
"earthy" smell. You can sift the compost to eliminate material which
has not yet finished composting. Return this back to the pile to complete
its transformation into humus.
Put Compost to Good
Composting can benefit your soil and plants in many ways. It increases the
soil's organic matter content and its moisture-holding capacity. Compost improves
soil porosity and helps to control soil erosion. It also enhances plant and
flower growth and helps plants develop a sound root structure.
Use it on your lawn, in your garden, around trees or combine it with potting
soil for your plants.