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Why Should I Compost?
Composting is easy and provides many benefits, some of which are listed below:
How Do I Get Started ?
- Compost contains nitrogen and phosphorus as does fertilizer. Unlike synthetic fertilizers, compost does not release these nutrients quickly so plants derive maximum benefit from them.
- Compost is natural, so you don't have to worry about polluting.
- Compost adds water and nutrient-holding capacity to sandy soils.
- Compost attracts earthworms and provides them with food so they breed rapidly. As all gardeners know, earthworms are beneficial for a garden.
- Compost suppresses soil-born diseases that might attack your plants.
- Composting can reduce household garbage.
Setting up a composter is a great environmental activity to participate in. To set up your composter, keep in mind the following:
What Should I Put Into My Composter ?
- Subsidized home composters are available at a reduced rate from the Elgin Mills Community Environmental Centre, 1124 Elgin Mills Road East (located between Leslie Street and Bayview Avenue)
- Place your composter on solid, well-drained ground. If possible, place your composter in a sunny spot in order to speed up the decomposition process.
- For convenience, consider placing the composter near your side or back door.
- Leave enough room near the composter for supplies of earth and dry leaves.
Composting is a simple, natural process. Once you put organic material into your composter, the decomposition process starts. What you place into the composter and how you layer the material, affects the speed of decomposition. For best results, perform the following steps:
Did You Know?
- Add 4 parts carbon-based material (brown material such as dry leaves, shredded newspaper, straw etc.) to 1 part nitrogen (green material such as fruit and vegetable scraps, weeds, flowers, grass clippings etc.).
- Vary the materials that go into the composter. The micro-organisms in your composter thrive on a variety of foods.
- If possible, layer wet and dry material in your composter. For instance, when you add kitchen scraps or grass, also add dry leaves. Layers should be no more than 15 cm (6 inches) thick.
- Sprinkle a little earth over your organic material. This will keep flies away from your composter.
- Chop or shred materials into small pieces to make the composting process go faster.
What Maintenance Will My Composter Need?
- Human hair and pet hair can also be composted. These are GREEN items that are high in nitrogen.
- You can compost in the winter.
- If your compost pile doesn't seem to be composting, try turning it, it may need some air.
As long as your composter contains organic material, decomposition will happen. A little tending however can speed up the process, so be sure to keep the following points in mind:
You Might Be Wondering....
- Decomposition needs air. Turn or poke the contents of your composter every week to allow air to penetrate.
- The contents of your composter should be like a damp (not wet) sponge. If it is too dry, add water to the pile, and add more fruit and vegetable scraps. If it is too wet, turn the compost pile more often, add dry organic materials like leaves, and keep a lid on your composter to keep the rain off the material.
- Cut up vegetable and food scraps into small pieces. Greater surface area means faster composting.
- Don't add more than 6 inches of one type of material at a time.
- Involve your whole family in helping with the composter's care and feeding, and soon it will be just part of the household routine.
Are animals attracted to composters?
If you follow the simple rules for composting and be sure to avoid putting meat, fat or bones into your composter, it probably won't be visited by unwanted pests or animals. If you're worried about pests, there are simple ways you can pest proof your composter by lining it with wire mesh or purchasing a base for the composter, using a composter with a cover, digging food waste into the pile and covering food waste with soil.
What about bugs?
Most insects found in composters help the decomposition process. Presence of larger bugs like earwigs, sow bugs, and ants usually mean the material is not being composted quickly. These bugs are helping the process, but if they are still present when you use your finished compost, they may eat your plants. Pay close attention to the variety of material in your composter, and turn the pile frequently. As decomposition speeds up, the temperature will increase and the bugs will depart. Sprinkling a little earth over each addition of kitchen scraps will also discourage flies.
Will my composter produce a foul smell?
A compost pile that is properly aerated and working well should not have an unpleasant odour. If it does, the material may be too wet or too compacted. Feeding your composter a variety of the right kinds of kitchen and yard waste, while aerating it by turning or poking it once a week can prevent it from producing a foul odour.
Should I put weeds in my composter?
A composter that is working quickly will produce enough heat to kill most weed seedlings. To make sure that weed seedlings do not survive, leave collected weed waste in a black plastic bag in the sun for a few weeks before composting them.