Composting 101- Its easy being green!!
April 30, 2015
Back in the days of our parents and grandparents, nobody knew anything about greenhouse gasses and global warming. Back then the meat or fish they bought wasn’t wrapped in plastic and Styrofoam, it came wrapped in brown butchers paper, or news print and it was tied up with multipurpose twine to hold it together. The veggies they bought came directly from the farmer and there were no plastic bags to harm the ozone layer or overload the landfills. There were no worries as ‘overpackaging’ or aerosol spray cans that released chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)into our air.
It’s a different story now. These days, rightfully so, everyone is concerned about being green and saving the planet. Recycling programs, biodegradable products and even electric cars are all current ways, that we as humans are attempting to slow down the process and reverse the damage that we’ve done to the earth. These methods are all making an impact, but sometimes some of the biggest changes that we can make, are right in our own back yards.
In nature, nothing is wasted or thrown away. Instead, insects, worms and microorganisms decompose dead plants
and animals, returning valuable nutrients back to the earth and allowing other plants to grow. When we compost
organic waste in our backyards, we mimic these natural processes and also do a small part in helping the
environment. . Compost is free, easy to make and is also very good for the
environment. It also reduces kitchen/yard and landfill waste.
How to start- There are two main types of organics that can be put into
your compost bin, “greens and browns.” Greens (Vegetable and fruit scraps (fresh,
cooked, or canned), coffee grounds/filters, tea leaves/bags, garden waste, fresh
weeds without seeds, fresh grass clippings) are wet materials rich in nitrogen while
“browns” Dry leaves, straw, dry hay, sawdust, woodchips from untreated wood,
twigs, dried grass clippings, dried weeds without seeds, shredded paper napkins, tissue paper and generally dry and
rich in carbon. You need both of these materials to make compost. Other items that can be added are Eggshells,
wood ash (small amounts), plain rice, plain pasta, bread, hair, wool, cotton
There are some easy to remember rules of composting; No meats, bones or fish scraps, s they will attract pests. Dairy
products, sauces and oily foods, perennial plants and any diseased items should also be excluded.
Start your compost right on the ground, so worms and other micro-organisms can access your heap easily. Start your
pile with a generous layer of browns on the bottom, and alternating with greens and browns as you go. Smaller
pieces will decompose easier and quicker. After this initial process, you can just add your organics as they accumulate
in your home.
Water-The micro-organisms in your compost pile need moisture in order to survive, however not too much or they
won’t be able to breathe. Ideally your compost pile should have a moisture content of approximately 50%. You can
easily check the moisture content by simply taking a handful of the compost and squeezing it in your hand. It should
leave your hand moist and not drip more than a few drops when squeezed tightly. Remember that the “green”
materials will be adding moisture content, however you may still have to add water.
Air- The micro-organisms in your compost pile also need air, it helps to speed up the decomposition process. If you do not aerate your pile it could cause the pile to begin to compost anaerobically, which produces an odour. Your compost pile should not smell!! Aerating will not only avoid this unpleasant odour problem, but it makes a significant difference in how quickly your compost matures.
You can aerate by turning the pile using a pitchfork or shovel or use an aerating tool to poke holes and make air channels throughout the pile. If you have a large compost pile, be sure to aerate all the way into the center so that the whole pile gets the air it requires.
There are also many store bought ready-to-use compost containers, if you[re not ready to jump in headfirst with a compost heap, these containers may be the solution for you. The most efficient of these containers, would be the compost tumbler. An enclosed ‘tumbler’ system offer the following benefits: – speeds up the composting process – can compost year-round, due to higher internal temperature – cannot be accessed by rodents, raccoons, dogs or other critters – keeps compost neatly enclosed and odor-free, well-suited for residential areas.
An old friend of mine always told me “If you ever get locked out of your house in the middle of winter and are in fear of freezing to death, just jump in your compost heap, cover yourself over (with the organic matter) and you will stay nice and warm” While it’s true that the large community of microscopic critters working away will turn your compost into hot, steamy pile, I always thought it would be easier to just knock on your neighbours door.
That’s it for this time, if you have any questions, or comments, I’d love to hear them…and remember, I’m no expert, I’m just a painter gal with some thoughts to share.
What things do you do to live ‘Green’?