Composting

Composting is an easy way to return organic material to the soil.

With Calgary's growth, landfill has become an issue and much of what we throw into the garbage, in the form of kitchen and yard waste, can be turned into useful compost. Along with easing Calgary's landfill burden, compost is a natural slow-release fertilizer which, when dug into the garden, returns nutrients to the soil in the form of phosphorus, potassium, and nitrogen, along with many others. Compost adds fiber to our clay soil, improving drainage and allowing oxygen into the soil. It can also be used as mulch for moisture retention, as well as a lawn dressing. Composting is great for the environment and beneficial for the garden. Finished compost will be rich, black, and almost sweet smelling, with a coarse and crumbly texture.

Simple composting consists of piling up leaves, grass clippings and other garden waste, along with the vegetable matter from your kitchen garbage and allowing them to decompose. Containers can be purchased or constructed out of wire mesh, or with wood slats, that allow air circulation. Air circulation is crucial to the decomposition process. Containers should have lids and also a simple way to remove the compost from the bin.

Depending on the volume of your garden waste, you may find the three-container system to be beneficial. In the three-container system, new material is stored in the first container, decomposing material is stored in the second container, and compost is stored in the third. As the material goes through the stages of decomposition, the material is forked from one bin to the next in the progression until it emerges as compost. It takes about a year for usable compost to be formed; with this system, you should always have compost for using the garden.



What is composting?

Composting is a natural biochemical process of decay in which bacteria, fungi, worms, and other small organisms in the soil decompose organic matter. This breakdown of kitchen and yard waste results in a dark, earth-smelling, nutrient-rich, soil conditioner known as humus or compost.



Why compost?

Composting is an easy way to return organic material to the soil. It conditions soil and improves plant growth. Another reason for composting is to reduce the amount of organic matter going to landfill sites. Kitchen and yard waste makes up about 33% of residential solid waste. If you compost, and also recycle newspapers, bottles and cans; it will help reduce the amount of household garbage going to landfill sites.



What can you compost:

Kitchen food wastes such as vegetable trimmings, fruit peels, tea bags, grass clippings, dead plants, pruning clippings and sawdust.



What you shouldn't compost:

Meat, fat or bones. Weeds with seeds present that could germinate where you don't want them. Grass clippings that have been sprayed with weed killer.



Using the compost:

Usually a compost pile is started in the spring, when there is a great deal of refuse to clean up. Organic matter is added until the pile contains as much as it can and still have room to turn. By fall this is a crumbly, dark, earthy soil - like material that is very useful to condition flower and vegetable beds, to use as a mulch for winter protection or moisture preservation, or improve the soil for new beds. When you have used the compost you have made, fall clean-up material can be used to start a new batch. It will decompose until the weather becomes too cold, then begin again in the spring and become the basis of the pile for the next year.





Composters

Containers should have lids and also a simple way to remove the compost from the bin.


Simple composting consists of piling up leaves, grass clippings and other garden waste, along with the vegetable matter from your kitchen garbage and allowing them to decompose. Containers can be purchased, or constructed out of wire mesh, or with wood slats, that allow air circulation. Air circulation is crucial to the decomposition process. Containers should have lids and also a simple way to remove the compost from the bin.



Compost enclosures:

In the city, most people want a compost pile enclosed, to keep it tidy and inconspicuous. This can be as simple as wooden slats, with spaces between for air circulation, or chicken wire, supported by wooden fence posts at the corners. There are also plastic compost bins, made from recycled plastic, which are unobtrusive, tidy, and retain heat and moisture. Ideal size for a compost pile is about a metre (yard) cube. Many people have two bins side-by-side, so that they can add to one while the other full one is finishing the composting process. It should be in an area with good air circulation, and a sunny, warm spot will enable it to work faster, but is not absolutely necessary. In a cool, shady spot it will just take longer.

 

 

Starting a compost pile:

Start with a layer of brush cuttings from pruning, or coarse vegetable matter. Add layers of grass clippings and other fresh, green material, then layers of dry, brown material, such as sawdust, tea bags, coffee grounds or dry leaves. Manures, fertilizers, compost activators or soil will speed up decomposing assuming the pile is kept damp but not wet.



Maintaining a compost pile:

Composting requires good air circulation, the material must be damp but not wet, and there must be a layer of green, damp material and dry, brown material. The pile must be turned periodically to enable oxygen to reach the material in the centre. It should be covered if there is a lot of rain. If the compost pile has an unpleasant odor, then it is too wet. Be sure it has good drainage at the bottom, add more dry material, cover to protect from rain, and turn more frequently. You may also need to sprinkle it with water if the weather is hot and dry. The heat developing in the pile kills bacteria, and also indicates that decomposition is taking place. Cover kitchen wastes with soil or other material to avoid attracting pets and rodents. Plastic containers with lids prevent this problem.



Three container system

Depending on the volume of your garden waste, you may find the three-container system to be beneficial. In the three-container system new material is stored in the first container, decomposing material is stored in he second container, and compost is stored in the third. As the material goes though the stages of decomposition, material is forked from one bin to the next in the progression until it emerges as compost. It takes about a year for usable compost to be formed; with this system you should always have compost for using the garden. Composters can be placed on bare ground or raised on a 2x4 frame for ease of drainage. They can be in sun or shade. The warmer it is, the faster it decomposes, as long as it is always moist. If it is in the shade, it will simply take longer to decompose.

garden fertilizer




Composting 101:

Composting has been a bit of a hot topic in Calgary of late with the new compost bins. Some people just want to make their own compost and we get that, so if you want to start composting we're going to try and make it easy for you.

First and foremost, composting is just putting all of your organic waste all in one space. Be it from the garden or from the kitchen it's really that easy.


Now here's a few tips to get you started:


1

It's really hard to screw it up. At worst it will only take longer for you to make some great home compost, or it can get too hot and burn up some of the microorganisms. You only fail if you make a huge pile and then give up.



2

If you're unsure come in and get a compost bin otherwise you are looking to make about a meter squared contained pile. You don't want to make it much bigger than that otherwise, you will have difficulty turning it. Try and turn it/stir it every week or so.



3

Layer green materials, fresh garden scraps like Cuttings, grass clippings, green materials with water content with brown materials like Fall leaves, spent grasses, dead garden and other organic material lacking water dried coffee grinds for instance. Sprinkle in kitchen scraps without oils, dairy and meats. These items can attract unwanted guests.



4

These materials over time begin to break down with heat that is the composting process. It's microorganisms that decompose the materials.



5

Do not let the pile dry out. The microorganisms that are doing the hard lifting need some moisture to survive.



6

We live where it's is hot and dry generally speaking, and your pile has full sun, you may need to water it more often to keep it from overheating and drying out.



7

Select a good site, this can be a compromise as you would need easy access from your kitchen, but not right beside your patio. Pick a spot that has a mix of sun and shade and not on an impervious base.



8

Get your self a composting mixing tool and compost accelerator this will make turning your compost easier and speed up the process of making a fine compost.



9

Your compost is ready when it's a deep rich earthy colour and lacking unpleasant smells. and that's it.



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