One of the things that frustrates me about watching food shows is the disconnect between the awareness of local chefs and food growers, but not the waste. TV show hosts will take everything from food scraps to packaging and throw it all under the counter.
There is an opportunity to easily raise awareness about the value of composting organic material. These shows could just as easily set aside all the food scraps – not the garbage, but the organic items – into a bowl: onion roots, outer leaves of lettuce, used tea leaves and coffee grinds, egg shells, shrimp tails (but not other meat/dairy), fruit peels and cores, dead leaves from house plant, etc.
What does not go in a natural compost are: meat, dairy, salt or sauces, eaten food scraps and paper products – those all go in the city’s compost; not your back yard! The salt is a high risk to plants and fat/bones will attract animals. Nobody wants that … it’s what the city garbage facilitates are made to handle.
I am hoping to see more people take on their own home compost project. It is so easy! In our house, we generate 3-4 cups of organic waste per week from meal prep, coffee grinds and tea leaves. I keep a steel mixing bowl in the fridge that holds everything and then empty it 1-2 times per week into a compost bin beside the house. I also stop by one of the local coffee shops to pick up their weekly grinds on Saturdays, and add those in as well.
How to compost
Step 1. I bought a 2nd compost bin ($50 at Canadian Tire). Each September, I empty the bin at the back of my yard into the garden. This lets the compost sit on the ground over winter to finish processing and protects the roots of my hibernating plants.
Step 2. I move the compost (using a wheel barrow) from the bin closest to my house, to the one at the back of my yard. I alternate them every year (i.e. I let the compost sit for a year before adding it to the garden). This extra time ensures that weed seeds and twigs have more time to breakdown and not contaminate my garden and flower beds. Turning it also aerates the compost to let worms and moisture flow through to accelerate the process.
Step 3. I set up a new base of leaves/twigs on the bottom of the compost bin closest to my back door. As it decomposes, the volume reduces. This allows me to continue to add more organic material through out the year, including leaves. The exception is grass clippings because they take so long to break down; we put grass in the city compost. During the summer months, I periodically add a layer of peat moss to help retain moisture, but that’s not necessary. You can also add a thin layer of leaves to add volume for air circulation.
Step 4. Mix the compost with top soil and manure to create your own triple mix. Rinse and repeat every year.
Do you compost your organic materials – at home or as part of a City program? What has your experience been?