Last week when I turned over my compost heap, steam rose from the black mound. It’s a perfect sign of a good healthy compost. The scraps I’ve been piling on over the winter have been fuel for the microorganisms in my pile, turning waste into fertile soil.
Building a backyard compost is easy. You just need to add an extra bucket in your kitchen to separate your raw greens from your other food scraps that go into HRM’s green bin. Fruit and vegetable scraps; anything too ripe to eat; coffee grinds; tea bags and egg shells; can all be used. And they help make great soil for your garden once they decompose.
You don’t need a lot of space for a compost. I use a spot in my back garden that is about 5 feet by 5 feet. There, I pile up my garden scraps. The basic formula for a good compost is Green + Brown. The brown is high in carbon. This comes from things like leaves, straw and sawdust. The green is made up of the nitrogen rich material: kitchen scraps, vegetable matter, seaweed and grass clippings are all great.
Keeping a small pile of dry grass clippings and leaves beside the compost is a good idea, so that you can alternate kitchen waste (“green”) with your garden clippings (“brown”). Each time I bring a bucket of scraps out from the kitchen, I cover it with the carbon rich brown matter.
There are two advantages to this method. The first is that covering your kitchen waste with leaves or grass clippings seems to deter unwanted pests. Yes, this can be a problem in HRM. The other advantage is that combining the carbon rich grass and leaves with nitrogen rich kitchen scraps, oxygen and a bit of water, makes a great compost in about 8-12 weeks.
Having two piles on the go is handy also: one for your fresh pile and another for your older compost. Once my heap reaches the crumbly soil stage, I dig this back into my garden to renew the growth cycle. And even if there are a few pieces of organic material that have not fully decomposed, the naturally occurring worms in the soil will take care of it.
I’ve gone through a number of methods for composters, everything from the black compost bins available through the city to bigger box structures built with 6 foot planks. Today I am using Lee Valley’s brackets ($90) to hold 6 foot cedar planks, this is a great system.