Many people find home composting not only convenient, but also a simple way to manage household waste more effectively. The following is basic information on setting up a home composting unit.
What you need
- "Green/wet" and "brown/dry" organic waste (defined below)
- Container to collect kitchen scraps
- Shovel or pitchfork to turn the material
- Compost bin
- Green leaves
- Vegetable and fruit scraps
- Grass clippings
- Weeds (before they go to seed)
- Coffee grounds, filters, tea bags
- Eggs shells
- Bread, cooked pasta or rice
- Evergreen needles
- Dead or dry leaves
- Brown grass clippings
- Bark chips
- Straw, hay
- Branches, prunings
- Shredded high grade paper
- Sawdust (limited quantities)
- Lint (from dryers, vacuums)
Let's Make Compost!
- Start with a layer of branches on the bottom. This allows air to circulate from below.
- Next, layer equal quantities of "green/wet" and "brown/dry" material. Add water so that the mixture is like a wrung-out sponge. It should be damp, but not wet. Covering the pile helps retain the moisture.
- To speed up the process, turn the pile with a shovel or pitchfork at least once a month. You can continue to add new materials as they are available. Always mix the compost pile as you go.
- Within 12-16 months, you should see finished compost material at the bottom of the bin. The material should appear soil-like, be dark rich and sweet-smelling.
Uses for Finished Compost
Top Dressing - add directly on top of existing soil in flower-beds and gardens, at the base of trees and shrubs or rake into the lawn after aerating.
Mulch - place a thicker layer of compost on top of soil to help condition the soil and retain moisture.
Planting Mixture - use as a soil conditioner when planting or transplanting flowers, shrubs and trees. Fill the hole by mixing equal parts of soil and compost material around the root ball of the plant, tree or shrub you are planting.
Compost Tea - Use cheesecloth as the "teabag" and fill with one litre of compost material. Tie at the top, then place the "teabag" in a garbage can full of water. Allow to steep overnight, then use the resulting "tea" to water household plants and outside gardens.
There are numerous books, guides and courses on maintaining a home compost. Consult the St. Albert Public Library or go online to a number of gardening or environmental websites.
For further information on home composting, the City of Edmonton offers "Compost Doctors". Visit their Composting website to learn more or contact:
Grasscycling (or Mulching)
What is it? Simply put, grass mulching is a method of cutting grass where clippings are left on the lawn, resulting in mulch. Grass clippings are an excellent source of nitrogen and can reduce the need to fertilize by up to 25 per cent. Grass clippings also conserve moisture in the lawn, reducing the need to water as frequently. And lawn mowing may require less time since there is no need to bag and dispose of the clippings.
Grass mulching WILL NOT:
- Cause thatch to build up in the lawn. The primary cause of thatch is roots, stems, rhizomes, crowns and stolons. These plant components decompose slowly within lawns.
- Spread lawn diseases. Lawn diseases usually develop due to improper watering and fertilizing.
- Make your lawn look untidy. The secret is to cut the lawn frequently so that clippings are short enough to fall between the existing blades of grass. Short clippings will decompose faster than longer clippings.
- Require a special mower. Most mowers can be used for grass mulching. Simply remove the bag and adjust the blade to between 2.5 to 3 inches or 60 to 75 mm. If your mower does not have a safety flap that covers the bag chute, retrofit kits are available for most mowers from local retailers. DO NOT USE your mower in an unsafe way!
Tips for Mowing Your Lawn:
- Cut the grass when the surface is dry
- Keep mower blades sharp
- Cut to 1/3 the length of the grass at any one mowing - between 2.5 to 3 inches or 60-75 mm. This keeps clippings short
- Cut your grass frequently - as much as once every four or five days during active growing season, and reducing to as little as once every seven to 10 days when growth slows. If your lawn gets too long, consider double-cutting. Be sure to make the second cut perpendicular to the first
Composting and grass mulching are two excellent ways to manage yard waste, reduce waste volumes and help the environment. They're easy, inexpensive and convenient.
Last edited: November 1, 2017