Feed Your Soil: Learning to Compost

Feed Your Soil: Learning to Compost

A tourist in Vienna is going through a graveyard and all of a sudden he hears some music. No one is around, so he starts searching for the source. He finally locates the origin and finds it is coming from a grave with a headstone that reads: Ludwig van Beethoven, 1770-1827. 

Then he realizes that the music is the Ninth Symphony and it is being played backward! Puzzled, he leaves the graveyard and persuades a friend to return with him. By the time they arrive back at the grave, the music has changed. This time it is the Seventh Symphony, but like the previous piece, it is being played backward.

Curious, the men agree to consult a music scholar. When they return with the expert, the Fifth Symphony is playing, again backward. The expert notices that the symphonies are being played in the reverse order in which they were composed, the 9th, then the 7th, then the 5th. 

By the next day the word has spread and a throng has gathered around the grave. They are all listening to the Second Symphony being played backward. 

Just then the graveyard's caretaker ambles up to the group. Someone in the group asks him if he has an explanation for the music.

"Don't you get it?" the caretaker says incredulously. "He's decomposing."

There has been a lot of talk about compost in our blog lately, and we thought we'd take the time to let you know just how to pull off one of nature's neat tricks right in your own backyard, and at a quicker pace than it would happen naturally, but with the exact same results.  Here are the how-tos:

Steps to Making Compost

  • Choose a sunny outdoor site.
  • Consider the different types of bins that are available to you and make a choice.  Some sit on the ground and some are raised.  If you choose one that sits on the ground, break up the soil around the area where you want to place the bin, and bury the bottom edge 3-5 centimetres underground.
  • The first layer should be comprised of leaves, twigs and other dry compostable materials, such as shredded paper or cardboard. This provides aeration.  Moisten this well.
  • Add a layer of green material such as kitchen scraps, green leaves, grass clippings or spent cut flowers.
  • Follow with a brown layer - consisting of dry leaves, straw, or shredded newspaper. Brown materials should always be moistened after they are added.
  • Continue alternating green and brown layers over time until the bin is almost full, then cover with a 5 cm layer of garden soil or finished compost. This is important as it contains many beneficial microorganisms that help to speed up the composting process.
  • It is important to add air to the compost so it doesn't smell. If your bin is stationary, sitting on the ground, this can be done by occasionally turning it with a garden fork or using a hanging basket hook, which is plunged into the compost and pulled out. It is not essential, but will speed up the process.  If your bin is raised, it is likely that there will be a way to turn the bin itself. 
  • The compost will be ready in approximately 2-3 months (faster in summer, longer in winter). The compost is ready when it smells earthy, has a crumbly texture and there are no readily identifiable food products. Some materials that are not as readily compostable (such as straw, twigs, eggshells or corncobs) may be visible. These can either be placed aside for the next batch of compost, or allowed to break down fully in the garden.
  • Repeat, and enjoy the benefits of compost, while knowing you are helping reduce the amount of green waste going to landfill.

  • How to Use Your Compost

  • Use instead of potting mix for planting seedlings.
  • Encourage healthy plant growth by digging in a layer of compost around the drop line in trees.
  • Compost can be applied twice a year to natives and as a top dressing for lawns.

    **Information adapted from http://www.acrd.bc.ca/cms.asp?wpID=233