The season for growing fresh fruits and vegetables right in your backyard is upon us. Warm weather breathes life into fresh berries, tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers, and many other delectable fruits and vegetables.
The bounty of your home garden can be made more abundant and fruitful with the addition of the right soil amendments. Compost is a key element of rich, nutritious soil. Scraps from items that have been grown in your garden can then be used in the production of compost that feeds that same garden. It’s a continuous circle of garden life.
Residential composting also reduces the amount of waste shipped to landfill, and reduces the amount of greenhouse gas emissions formed from organic material decomposing in these landfills. Composting by Canadian households has increased over the years, according to Statistics Canada. Many households participate in a curbside collection system while others compost their kitchen waste using a compost bin or pile.
Getting started with composting for your garden is relatively easy. Homeowners should choose an outdoor space near the garden but far away from the home so that it won’t be disturbed by children or animals. There are many styles for composting, but all follow a basic principle of putting organic material in a pile and allowing it to decompose.
Composters can be enclosed bins that help contain odour and camouflage the compost. These are available at most hardware stores and garden centres. Some people opt for an open compost pile in their garden. Either way, the Canadian Wildlife Federation suggests it’s possible to have your composter anywhere in the garden and still get good compost.
The next step is to start gathering scraps and materials that will go into your compost. Keeping a bucket or bin in the kitchen to accumulate kitchen scraps keeps composting simple. Here are some kitchen-related items that can go into your compost material:
• Fruit peels
• Vegetable peels and scraps
• Coffee grounds
• Shredded newspaper
In addition to these materials, grass and plant clippings, dry leaves, bark chips, straw, and sawdust from untreated wood can go into the pile. Avoid diseased plants, anything with animal fats, dairy products, and pet feces.
A low-maintenance pile has an equal amount of brown and green plant matter in the compost plus moisture to keep the bacteria growing and eating at the right rate. Aerating the compost occasionally, and turning the bin when possible, will allow the compost to blend and work together. Compost will take a few months to form completely. The finished product will resemble a dark, crumbly soil that smells like fresh earth.
Compost will not only add nutrients to garden soil, but also it can help insulate plants and may prevent some weed growth. It is a good idea to start a compost pile as a free source of nutrition for plants and a method to reduce food waste in an environmentally sound way. Evergreen Brick Works, Canada’s first large-scale community environmental centre provides an excellent guide to backyard composting.
Visit www.evergreen.ca to download their free PDF.