[singlepic id=40 w=320 h=240 float=left]As something of a follow-up to my previous post on Backyard Gardening, I’d like to take a moment to talk about my first year of experience composting, which is of course a helpful component to gardening.  When Jenn and I bought our house last year, two compost bins came with the property.  I’d always been interested in composting, especially while living in apartment buildings and realizing how much organic waste we had to throw in the garbage for lack of an alternative, but had never actually done it before.

Since we were both pretty new to composting, we decided to sign up for and attend one of the Backyard Composting Workshops put on by the City of Edmonton at the John Janzen Nature Centre.  I can’t rave enough about this program.  The instructor was very knowledgeable on the subject and related topics, and very good at presenting it and answering questions.  I would highly recommend this course for anyone who wants to get into composting (and I would highly recommend everyone getting into composting where possible).

The basics of composting are very simple, though: Build or purchase a suitable covered container and locate it somewhere in your yard.  Collect your household organic waste in a small bucket or container and regularly drop it in the compost bin, along with any organic waste from your yard.  Try to maintain roughly a 50/50 mix by volume (or a 30:1 ratio by weight) of “browns” – carbons such as dried grass and leaves, shredded paper, etc. – and “greens” – nitrogens such as fresh grass clippings, fruit and veggie scraps, etc.

Just about anything organic can be composted from used paper towels to banana peels and apple cores, from bread that went moldy to tea bags and coffee grounds and shredded paper (which you apparently shouldn’t put in the recycling anyway).  Just no meat or animal waste – though small amounts of herbivore droppings are beneficial, and occasional eggshells are good too.  Turn or mix the compost every couple of weeks, and keep it moist.

While that’s pretty much all there is to it, I still and once again recommend the Backyard Composting Workshop.  This short course will teach you much more of the nuances, biology, chemistry, and even troubleshooting composting, with take-home materials for reference.

[singlepic id=41 w=320 h=240 float=right]After just your first year of composting, you should already have some beautiful and nutritious compost, ready to mix in your soil for your veggie garden, flower gardens, or to sift and sprinkle around your lawn in the fall to fertilize your grass come spring.  Your homegrown fruit and veggies, your flower gardens, and your lawn will all see enormous benefit from organic fertilizer from compost, and your leftovers from all of these can go right back into the compost bin to recycle all those nutrients, bringing them full-circle.

While Jenn and I have always recycled as much as possible while living in an apartment building – usually a full large blue bag per week – we would still end up having to throw away about one full white kitchen garbage bag every week.  We that we compost most of our organic waste, we now throw away about half as much in the garbage every week.  To emphasize that, we have easily halved our trash output.

Composting is another very simple thing that I think could make a huge difference to our collective urban sustainability if every homeowner with the means and space started doing it, simply by virtue of how much less waste would thrown in the trash (though Edmonton has remarkably advanced waste management practices, and about to get even better), as well as by having less chemical fertilizers entering our groundwater and river basin by replacing them with your organic compost instead.

It’s easy, it’s somewhat fun, and it’s good for growing things.  What’s not to love about composting?

Posted by Dave Sutherland Sep - 13 - 2010 1 Comment Categories: Blogography
  • Ali

    One of these years, I want to actually get around to having my own in apartment vermicomposting setup. It’s not hard to do, but I need to get the bin and the worms. *sighs*