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Backyard Composting

Backyard Composting

Composting is the natural breakdown of organic materials by living organisms (including bacteria, fungi, worms and small insects). Any material from a living source - plant or animal - is called "organic". The end product is a dark, earthy, soil-like substance called compost.

In nature, the breakdown of organic materials occurs all around us. For example, the fertile dark earth on the forest floor is a mature form of compost call humus produced mostly from decomposed leaves.

How to Compost

Backyard composting can be done in commercial bins, home-made bins, or simple open piles. Enclosed bins have advantages over open piles in terms of containing the material, controlling the process, and minimizing pest problems.

Compost "Ingredients"

  • All composting "ingredients" generally fall under one of two categories - "browns" or "greens".
  • "Browns" are dry, carbon-rich organic materials which include dry leaves, straw/hay, wood chips, sawdust, napkins, dryer lint, newspaper, and vacuum cleanings.
  • "Greens" are fresh, moist, nitrogen-rich materials which include grass cuttings, fruit and vegetable peelings/scraps, tea bags, pasta, coffee grounds, stale bread and eggshells.

Do not place the following in your backyard composter:

  • Meat, fish, bones, fats and oils
  • Dairy products
  • Weeds that have gone to seed
  • Pet manure and kitty litter.

Getting Started

  • Backyard composting containers are available at many garden centres around HRM.
  • The composter should ideally be located in a shady or partially shaded site, convenient to the house.
  • Place a layer (15 cm) of brown material and a handful of soil in your composter.
  • Alternate layers of green and brown material in your composter. Always cover kitchen waste with brown material. It's a good idea to stockpile bags of leaves or other brown material in the fall, for this purpose.
  • Add water as needed - the pile should stay moist, but not wet. If your pile is too wet, adding browns will solve the problem.
  • Once the pile is about a meter high, either turn the pile every two weeks (for faster composting), or simply poke a few holes into the centre of the pile (for slower composting).
  • Keep adding to the pile, always covering your green material with a layer of brown.

It's that Easy!

What to do with Finished Compost?

  • Compost is an excellent all-purpose soil amendment, improving fertility, structure, aeration, and moisture-holding capacity of the soil. Adding compost to your garden helps your flowers and vegetables by supplying needed nutrients and by conditioning the soil.
  • Add compost to the garden by mixing it into the top 6" of soil. Use it around trees, shrubs, vegetables and flowers.
  • Compost can be used as an ingredient (about one third compost by volume) in potting and transplant mixes.
  • Screened compost can be spread over lawns. Compost is most effectively incorporated into the soil following core aeration of the lawn.

More Composting Tips can be downloaded RRFB Nova Scotia 's web site.