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The Ins and Outs of Composting

Posted on May 29, 2018 by Earl Raatz

Ins and Outs of Composting Soil Featured ImageMany people are looking for ways to live a greener lifestyle and be more friendly to the environment. Composting is one of the most popular ways of doing this, and for good reason: composting can provide fresh, nutrient-rich soil to grow plants and gives homeowners an easy way of disposing of organic material. 

If you want to get started composting, here's what you need to know.

Defining Composting

Composting is nothing more than the process of breaking down organic material into soil. Organic material is anything that includes carbon. This means fruits that are too ripe to use, vegetables that have gone bad, egg shells, and even tissues are all materials right for composting. It's a great way to reduce waste and using this soil for landscaping will give you the nicest yard on your street!

You don't need a lot of space to get started. Just a barrel or a wooden container, although dedicating a 3' x 3' space is ideal. You also want to set your compost heap somewhere on your lot away from your home, as the smell is not always pleasant.

Ins and Outs of Composting Woman ImageHow to Get Started

To start, you'll need a container to hold all the material. Many retailers sell containers specifically designed for composting, but you don't have to buy something made especially for this. A wooden container works just as well. You want to place it in a shady spot, as the cool of the shade will help promote the growth of bacteria that will break down the material.

You don't need starter material before you begin adding more items into the compost pile. However, adding a little bit of fresh soil can help speed the process along. One of the most important things to remember is that you want an equal balance of the types of waste. There're two types of waste: green and brown. Green waste is anything from fruit to vegetables to grass clippings. Basically, kitchen waste. Brown waste includes items like straw and stray branches from your yard.

If the smell begins to get overwhelming, it can mean you don't have enough brown waste. Just add more to the pile and stir it in evenly. Composting takes a long time, so you'll have to be patient. After around nine months to a year, you should notice a dark, thick soil. Even if you notice some eggshells or branches that haven't broken down entirely, you can still use the soil for growing other plants.

Compost soil is great for putting in flower beds, potted plants, or even to use as mulch to beautify your backyard. You'll notice plants grown in compost are greener and lusher than plants grown in normal soil due to the abundance of nutrients.

Ins and Outs of Composting Sprouts ImageComposting in the City

Due to the smell, many people are hesitant to begin composting in tight suburban areas. Don't let this stop you. There are many options available to you for composting within the city limits, including one known as the Green Cart program

This program operates much like trash collection. Participants receive a special cart to place food and yard waste in. Once per week, the administrators of the program will come and retrieve the cart and take it to their indoor composting facility where it can be turned into compost rather than going to landfill. This is especially useful for people that live in an apartment, condo, or townhouse but still want to compost. 

If you aren't sure what goes into the green cart, keep this in mind: all types of food can go in, raw or cooked. You can also include coffee grounds, coffee filters, teabags, paper plates, and even tissues. Leaves, plants, grass clippings, and even real Christmas trees can also be composted.

Avoid putting plastic, painted materials, stickers, wax paper, and vacuum dirt into the green cart. These materials will not break down. Even biodegradable bags are not allowed.

A Few Things to Know

In the centre of the compost heap, the temperature can rise quite high. In some cases, people have reported small fires starting in their compost pile. This is nothing to worry about. It happens on a semi-frequent basis, but you should keep your compost pile away from trees or anything flammable.

If the idea of composting appeals to you, start a pile of your own. If you don't have the space to do that, check out what options are available to you in your area. Calgary and the surrounding areas have multiple green initiatives to help you live a more environmentally friendly lifestyle.

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Photo credits: soil, woman, sprouts 

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