We’re continuing our series on how your garden helps the planet this week by looking at composting.
If you missed our other posts in this series, check them out here:
- How Your Garden Helps the Planet: Lawns
- How Your Garden Helps the Planet: Trees, Plants, and Garden Design.
What is Composting?
Composting is the process of taking your organic waste and turning it back into nutrient-rich soil. Compost is a fantastic addition to your garden beds or pots and you can make your own compost whether you have a yard or a small space under your kitchen sink!
Gardening Know How states that “to understand the composting process, it helps to look at the natural decomposition process found in nature. For instance, wooded areas are filled with organic materials—trees, leaves, etc. Over time these materials slowly decompose, or break down, with the help of micro-organisms and earthworms. Once the materials have decomposed, they turn into humus, an essential element in the production of rich, fertile soil that is also responsible for producing healthy plants.”
How Do You Do It?
I have never tried this method but according to Indoor Composting 101, there are two ways to compost indoors: aerobic composting and vermi (worm) composting. The principle is simple: combine bedding material (damp paper or cardboard) with food scraps and either garden soil or a specific breed of worm in a container that is suited to your space and volume of food scraps. The container should be properly aerated and the mixture turned at regular intervals.
See the linked article for detailed instructions as well as troubleshooting!
We have three composters going outside of our house, two of them are Earth Machines and another was a hand-me-down! We bought the Earth Machine composters through a city program that allows residents to purchase them at a discount. So if you’re interested in starting a compost bin in your yard, check your local city programs to see if you might be able to get a composter (or even free instructions or classes!) to get started.
The principle is the same as indoor composting however you would simply place your composter on soil and so would not need a soil or worm starter as worms and bacteria from your soil will populate the material in the composter. We are not very disciplined about ratio of green and brown materials, but rather throw in kitchen and garden waste as well as leaves and lawn clippings as they come. The Earth Machine composters come with a handle to turn the material inside, which we don’t do terribly regularly, however we seem to get compost so are doing something right!
Whether indoors or outdoors, it’s important for your compost to have enough moisture so try to ensure that you have a good balance of green (veggie and fruit scraps) and brown (newspaper and cardboard) materials! If you find that your mix is too dry – it should have the moisture content of a wrung out sponge – then you can add some water until the right consistency is achieved.
Surprising Things You Can Compost
- Coffee grounds
- Hair / fur
- Toothpicks / sticks
- Natural corks
- Orange and banana peels: orange peels in moderation as the acidity can cause issues in your compost
The smaller the pieces, the quicker the composting process will be completed.
Surprising Things You Can’t Compost
- Potato peels/cuttings: potatoes will grow in your compost
- Weeds from lawn cuttings: weeds will grow in your compost
- Avocado skins and pits: they are difficult/take a long time to decompose
- Meat / fish: will smell and may attract pests
- Cheese / dairy: will smell and may attract pests
- Fats / oils: will smell and may attract pests
Can You Add “Compostable” Cutlery/Plates/Cups/Bags to Your Home Compost?
According to Compostable (Worse Than Plastic?), “in a home-scale compost bin, they won’t really break down. In order to break down, they must be composted in an industrial composting facility where temperatures get very high due to the immense volume of compost. Another issue is that even when they are composted, the quality of the compost is not very good. The “compostable” bio-plastics break down into a very sticky, resin-y debris that creates poor compost that’s not rich and nutritious for plants like compost from truly organic materials.”
What Happens To Food Waste in Landfills?
The Recycling Council of British Columbia notes the following consequences of sending food waste to the landfill:
- Landfills are anaerobic environments, and when organic materials degrade in an anerobic environment, methane gas is produced which is a greenhouse gas that can impact climate change;
- Approximately 40% of landfill materials are made of organics and if it can be diverted we would need fewer landfills; and
- Large scale composting facilities create jobs as well as compost that can be given back to the community.
So composting garden scraps and food scraps really can have an impact on the world around us!
Have you ever tried composting? Share your experiences with us on Facebook or Instagram!