What is composting?
Composting is a natural recycling process whereby micro-organisms, worms and insects break down organic matter into a dark, earthy material rich in nutrients.
Why should I compost?
Backyard composting is a great way to produce an excellent soil conditioner that will improve your soil and the plants growing within it while at the same time reducing your kitchen and yard waste. Composting can reduce household waste by as much as 30 per cent!
How to backyard compost:
Select an area that is level, has good water drainage, significant sun exposure, and is easily accessible year round. Turn the soil in the location where the composter will be.
To prevent pests or rodents from burrowing under the composter, line the bottom of the composter with 0.5 cm (1/4 inch) wire mesh/hardware cloth (optional).
Place a layer of small branches at the bottom of the composter. This allows for air movement and drainage of the compost pile.
Add organic materials, including both nitrogen-rich green materials (e.g. kitchen scraps) and carbon-rich brown materials (e.g. dried leaves). Alternate the layers and turn the compost regularly (every couple of weeks or each time you add new material). Add a thin layer of soil periodically to add more micro-organisms and accelerate the composting process.
Tip: when you rake your leaves in the fall, save several bags to add gradually to your pile during the rest of the year.
Add water if needed. Keep the pile moist but not soggy. Compost should feel about the same as a squeezed-out sponge.
Compost is ready to use when it is dark in colour, has a crumbly texture, and has an "earthy" smell. You can screen the finished compost to remove coarse or incompletely decomposed materials such as shells, corncobs, or twigs. Return these to the compost pile. It can take anywhere from six months to two years to make compost.
What can I do with finished compost?
Once compost is ready to use, it can be added to your garden, used around trees, or added to potted plants as a soil enricher. Compost promotes healthy plant growth, helps control soil erosion, and increases organic matter in soil, reducing the water demand of plants and trees through increasing moisture retention.
Where can I get a backyard composter?
Backyard composters are available for purchase from the Town of Newmarket's Operations Centre (1275 Maple Hill Court) for $20 to Newmarket residents only. Backyard composters may also be purchased from local hardware stores (prices may vary).
What materials belong and do not belong in a backyard composter?
|Coffee grounds and filters||Dairy Products or eggs|
|Egg Shells ||Diseased Plants|
|Flowers||Fatty foods (e.g. cheese) |
|Fruits and vegetables||Fat, oil, or grease |
|Leaves||Rhubarb leaves or other toxic plants |
|Nuts and shells||Salad dressing|
|Plants||Walnut shells or leaves |
|Rice, bread and pasta||Weeds (with mature seeds)|
|Straw or Hay |||
|Tea bags and tea leaves |||
|Weeds (before they seed) |||
|Wood chips |||
Tip: to accelerate the composting process, chop up material into smaller pieces.
Will the backyard composter smell?
A compost pile that is working well should not have an unpleasant odour. If it does, it may be that the materials are too wet or compacted. Turn the compost to aerate and/or dry out. You can also add some dry materials such as leaves to help absorb the excess moisture.
Can I compost in the winter?
Yes! Continue to add materials throughout the winter. The decomposition process will slow down, but the pile will become active again in the spring.
Can I compost grass?
It is encouraged that you leave grass clippings on your lawn to return nutrients to the soil. However if you wish to compost grass, do not add too much to your compost pile at one time. Grass clippings tend to mat and develop an unpleasant odour. It is suggested that you add them in thin layers, allow them to dry in the sun before adding them, and mix them with dry materials such as leaves.