Reduce Curbside Waste Start Composting
REDUCE CURBSIDE WASTE - START COMPOSTING!
Exerpt from the GARDEN GOURMET backyard composter User Guide.
By the Scepter Corporation, manufacturer of the Garden Gourmet backyard composter.
Tel: (416) 751-9445; toll-free: 1-800-387-6018
WELCOME TO COMPOSTING
Environmentally concious people everywhere are discovering composting as a rewarding way of beautifying their property while reducing pressure on overtaxed landfill sites. Composters turn organic waste material into a valuable resource - rewarding your composting efforts with an abundant supply of nutrient rich humus for a beautiful and healthy garden.
WHAT IS COMPOSTING?
Composting is a natural process in which bacteria and other organisms break down kitchen and yard waste into humus - a rich, dark, soil-like material that enriches gardens, boosts lawn fertility and retards soil erosion.
We live on a small planet populated by millions of people, producing millions of tons of garbage. If action is not taken now to reduce garbage, more and more of the planet will be replaced by landfill sites in order to cope with these huge amounts of waste.
WHAT CAN BE COMPOSTED?
Almost all your organic kitchen scraps and yard waste can be composted, including fruit and vegetable peelings, egg shells, tea bags, coffee grounds and coffee filters, bread (with no spreads on it) and plain pasta (with no sauces or oils). You can also compost peanut shells, peat moss, garden scraps, wet leaves, fresh lawn clippings, corn cobs and corn husks (although corn usually takes a full season to decompose.).
This organic material (also known as green material) should ideally be matched with a similar amount of brown material such as woodchips, hay, twigs, wood ashes, dried-out leaves and dried-out lawn clippings.
Other organic material that can be safely composted includes clean cotton or wool rags, dryer lint, string, rope, hair (untreated) and paper towels (with no oil or sauce on them).
The smaller the material is chopped, the more quickly it will compost. Wet leaves take a longer time to decompose, but if they are dried out first, mixed with kitchen waste and then put into the composter, their decomposition will accelerate.
WHAT CANNOT BE COMPOSTED?
- Meat, dairy products and food containing oils or sauces
can attract pest and therefore should not be composted.
- Pet waste is not recommended for composting as it may contain organisms that humans should avoid.
- Inorganic materials such as plastic, metal, rubber, glass, stone, chemicals or greases will not compost.
WHERE SHOULD THE COMPOSTER BE LOCATED?
The best location for your composter is one that's convenient for you. A composter can be an attractive piece of outdoor equipment that will complement your garden. Place it in sun or shade - either will work. But, to speed up the composting process and to avoid the pile becomming too wet, a sunny spot is advisable.
HOW DO I START COMPOSTING?
For best results, follow these easy steps:
1) Gather compostable kitchen waste (also referred to as green material) in a plastic container.
2) At the bottom of the composter, place a layer of twigs or sticks about 3" to 4" high. This will allow air to circulate at the bottom of the pile and to prevent odors.
3) Place kitchen waste onto the twigs and then cover the kitchen waste with a layer of brown material. The kitchen waste and brown material can be mixed together if desired.
4) Sprinkle some soil over top. Soil adds micro-organisms to the compost, helping to speed up decomposition. It also helps to keep away insects and pests.
POINTS TO REMEMBER
- Each time you empty kitchen scraps into the compost, and equal amount of brown material should also be added.
- It is recommended to mix the pile each time new material is added to ensure proper aeration and to prevent odours.
- The pile should not be too wet or dry - just as moist as a squeezed out sponge.
HOW IS PROPER AERATION ACHIEVED?
For composting to occur, a combination of organic waste, air and moisture must be present. Although a lack of air will produce a very soggy compost pile, too much air can slow down the composting process by over-cooling the pile. You can control the airflow and avoid these two extremes by adjusting the size of the openings in the composter.
NOTE: Compost heaps more commonly suffer from lack of aeration than over-cooling.
WILL THE COMPOST PILE GET HOT?
Decomposing organic waste usually generates heat. This is desirable because the more heat, the faster the composting process takes place. Ideally, your compost pile should be in the 40º - 55ºC (104º - 150ºF) range.
NOTE: If your composter pile does not become hot, it will still work, but at a slower rate.
HOW LONG DOES COMPOSTING TAKE?
Composting time varies according to climatic conditions. The process can take six months to one year depending on the temperature and the material added to the pile. For example, composting will decrease during the winter months in colder climates when only kitchen waste is available.
WHEN IS THE COMPOST READY?
Compost is ready when it is dark in colour, moist yet crumbly to the touch, and has an earthy smell to it.
WHAT CAN I DO WITH THE FINISHED COMPOST?
Compost provides a fertilizer rich in nutrients that can be added to your garden soil, or to your flower and vegetable gardens to enhance plant growth. There is usually a significant improvement in the harvest when compost has been mixed in with your garden.
Sometimes compost attracts flies. This usually occurs when kitchen scraps are left on top of the heap. It can be remedied by burying food in the pile or by turning the pile each time you add waste, and adding a layer of soil on top of the heap.
A well aerated compost pile should not smell. However, if occasional odours to occur, there are various solutions:
1) Add a layer of soil or garden lime.
2) Be sure to aerate the pile by turning it approximately every 2 to 3 days.
3) Add brown or dried-out material to balance the green material (since odours usually occur from too much kitchen waste and fresh lawn clippings rather than too much brown material).
- WET COMPOST PILE
A soggy compost pile often occurs in the spring because there is not enough brown material available over the winter to add to the compost. As well, all the kitchen waste added over the winter begins to thaw, resulting in an extrememly soggy compost heap. You can avoid this by leaving the lid off the composter and aerating (turning) the pile daily. The situation can also be remedied by adding only brown material and NOT adding kitchen waste to the pile until it begins to dry up (this should take 1 to 2 weeks if the pile is aerated daily).
- DRY COMPOST PILE
Although infrequent, sometimes the compost pile becomes too dry. This is usually because there is too much brown material. The pile can be made moist by adding more kitchen scraps or by simply adding small amounts of water to the pile.