Backyard Composting Basics

Backyard composting is an excellent way to provide nutrients for your garden while diverting waste from the landfill. Adding compost helps nutrients bind to soil, making nutrients more effective and reducing the amount that washes away with rainwater.  Soil that contains a good amount of compost will hold water well, increasing its resistance to drought. The conditioning of soil that compost provides also helps build good soil structure to combat erosion as well as improve overall aeration of the soil.

Composting takes minimal effort and only requires a slight change in some daily practices. It does most of the work on its own! Composting can be done in commercial bins, home-made bins or even open piles. Unfortunately, backyard bins are not provided by the city, but can be purchased at Kent, Home Depot, Canadian Tire and Lee Valley. This website is a great resource to explore if you are interested in building your own composting container. If you want to be free-spirited and have an open pile, just be sure that it can be adequately covered to prevent it from getting too wet.

What can I compost?

Compost needs a good mix of green and brown materials. Green materials are moist and nitrogen-rich. These can be food wastes (fruit and vegetable scraps), bread, pasta, coffee grounds, tea bags, eggshells, weeds, grass clippings and so on. Brown materials are carbon-rich organic materials and tend to be denser. Brown materials can be leaves, straw, hay, woodchips, paper, cardboard, sawdust etc.

You want to avoid putting diseased plants, seeding weeds, dairy, meat, fish, bones, fat, oil, pet manure and kitty litter in your compost pile. These materials take long to decompose, attract unwanted pests and could transfer disease.

Great optional additions to compost are manure, seaweed, peat moss and bonemeal. These materials are valuable for their nutrient levels and abilities to correct pH. For more information about pH, soil testing and amendments check out this post from earlier this year.

What to do to get started

  • Decide on what kind of container or pile you want. Find a nice, shady or partially shady area for it.
  • Place a layer of brown material at the bottom of the bin or pile, water it, then pile a layer of green material on top.
  • Alternate between brown and green layers, watering each layer as you go.
  • Be sure that your top layer always consists of brown material. This keeps critters and pests out, while keeping the important decomposers in! It might be a good idea to have a bag of brown material next to your compost pile for when you add your green material!
  • You want to keep your compost moist, but not too wet. Be sure to water it occasionally and cover it before heavy rains.
  • You can turn your compost if you want it to decompose faster. For a slower process, poke holes in the centre of the pile with a pitchfork or other garden tool.
  • Finished compost has an earthy smell and dark, spongy texture. You can expect it to take between 3 and 6 months to break down.

Now you can use your rich beautiful compost liberally through your garden.Your plants will thank you for it! A good boost from compost-rich soil will effectively strengthen the health of your plants as well as their ability to resist insects and disease.

We want to to know your composting tips and tricks! What’s your favourite compost ingredient? How often do you turn it (if at all)? Let us know, down below!

For Further reading:

Interested in worm composting?

Looking to build your backyard soil?

Curious about compost tea? Check out this DIY compost tea brewing project.

Want to learn about leafmould?

Written by: Mhari Lamarque

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One thought on “Backyard Composting Basics

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