Edmonton Master Composter Recycler Program Lesson Five: Backyard Composting

Over the next two months I will be sharing my experience with the Edmonton Master Composter-Recycler Program. Maybe it will inspire somebody to learn more about composting. Maybe a few people will discover more about recycling. Perhaps more than one reader will find something here that they can take away and use in their own community.

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Backyard composting is a great way to reduce your environmental footprint while benefiting from a nutritious end product. Compost is to your garden what food is to your family – a source of wholesome nourishment.

There are two basic rules to backyard composting: it should be easy and it should be fun.

In composting there are five things that we can control:

Materials – greens and browns
Aeration – getting oxygen to the organisms doing all the work
Hydration – how wet the compost is
Surface Area – smaller bits of compost have more surface exposure
Volume & Location – how large and where in the yard

Greens are fresh and full of nitrogen, while browns are dry and carbon-rich. The balance of greens to browns in the composter should be 1:1 by volume.image

Greens: fruit peels and cores, veg scraps, weeds, plants, coffe grounds, animal manure (herbivores only)
Browns: brown leaves, dead plants, hay and straw, peat moss, tissue and paper towels, dryer lint, wood chips, cones, sawdust, coffee filters
Minerals: egg shells, soil, perlite, vermiculite, wood ash
No: meat and animal products, fats and dairy products, pet litter, cat and dog feces, diapers, diseased plants, seeds, barbecue ashes and coal

Aeration reduces odors; use a pitchfork, compost aerator, a perforated pipe or add course materials.

Moisture speeds decomposition; compost must be kept moist and monitored weekly. Add moisture with a hose, a watering can, rain or aquarium water or by adding more greens. Hydrate slowly to avoid leaching the nutrients (particularly phosphorus) into the ground. Compost should be as wet as a wrung out sponge.

Surface area exposes more bacteria to the material; shredding or chopping material will help it decompose faster.

The ideal size for a compost pile is 1 cubic meter to 1.5 cubic meter. Locate it somewhere convenient where it will be well-drained, sunny and sheltered.

Thanks to:
Mark Stumpf-Allen, Composting Programs Coordinator City of Edmonton

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