Garbage In – Gold Out

A backyard composter is a great way to turn waste into “black gold” for your gardens

You’ve got to love Mother Nature. She takes your unwanted kitchen scraps, grass clippings and fallen leaves and with a little bit of time and very little effort, she turns your garbage into pure gold – or at least your garden thinks so.

Most people living in Halton Region have either red clay, or sandy soil and the best way to amend that soil is to add compost. Now, you could have compost delivered in those giant bags that’ll take you a couple of days to move from your driveway — or you can take kitchen stuff you are throwing out anyway and make your own.

All you need to start is either a plastic composter, or build your own using scrap wood and wire mesh. The advantage of plastic is that it keeps the rodents out, but if you avoid putting meat, dairy products, fatty foods and bones in your compost you’ll also reduce the potential rodent problem. You should also avoid putting in invasive plants such as garlic mustard weed as some seeds can survive the heat of decomposition.

Start by piling sticks and dead plants on the bottom (this provides air to your pile for circulation) next add greens, such as coffee grounds, vegetable scraps, egg shells and grass clippings, throw in a handful of soil (it has micro-organisms that gets things started) and top with dead leaves, straw or dried clippings.  The idea is to create layers of greens, soil and browns — these ingredients eventually get hot enough to break down into compost.

For the materials to decompose properly you need a balance of moist materials and oxygen. Add water from a hose if the mixture is too dry, or throw in more leaves or straw if the mixture is too wet. To stop it from smelling bad, add straw and ensure your mixture gets enough oxygen by giving it a good stir once a week.

Your compost is ready when it looks and smells like soil (dark and crumbly).  If any of the material is not ready, just throw it back into the compost pile. Use your freshly made compost to top dress lawns, dig into your vegetable gardens or your flower beds.  Your plants will definitely thank you for the extra nutrients which are as precious to them as, well, gold.

About this guest blogger:

Linda Brentnall has been a Halton Master Gardener for seven years in Oakville/Halton Region. She has a small but plentiful garden in her townhouse that she shares with her cat and the many rabbits that have invaded North Oakville.

This entry was posted in Compost, Education, Garbage, Green Living, Houses, Recycle, Reduce, Reuse and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Garbage In – Gold Out

  1. Suzanne Elvidge says:

    Eggshells do compost and add nutrients but they do take a while – scrunch them up as small as you can before you put them in.

  2. Mike says:

    Linda, How long does it take for your compost to be ready like soil?

  3. Hi Mike, thanks for your question.

    Unfortunately, it’s not easy to answer as your scraps become compost only after reaching a high temperature. And that depends entirely on how much you pile into it, if you keep the mixture right, and if you turn it regularly.

    If you have ideal conditions, it is possible to get 2 sets of compost over the spring and summer.

    Linda Brentnall, Halton Master Gardeners

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