For environmentally conscious Calgarians, composting is nothing new. Turning household food waste and lawn trimmings into an excellent, high-quality loam perfect for gardens – what we call compost –spares landfills from filling up with unnecessary waste and provides you with free organic fertilizer.
Even if you are not a gardener, however, composting can be beneficial. Mirage Landscaping, Calgary’s premier residential and commercial full service landscaping design and maintenance firm can provide you with some pointers on getting started.
Up To 40 per cent Of Residential Garbage Is Food Waste
That’s how the City of Calgary’s statistics break down in its Green Cart pilot project for composting. This program is slated to go city-wide in 2017 after a composting site is completed at the Shepard Landfill site. The effort to turn more organic waste products into compost is largely driven by one simple fact — such wastes do not easily decompose in the anaerobic environment typically found in a landfill.
Following 2017, Calgarians will able to toss anything from meat and bones, fish, shellfish, dairy products, pasta, breads, branches and weeds into their Green Cart at no additional cost if they don’t want to “privatize” their composting, as about 30 per cent of residents do today.
Home Composting Made Easy
The simplest way to become a composting gardener is to buy a ready made composting bin. From the City of Calgary, you can buy a price-subsidized plastic compost barrel year round for only $35.00 + GST. Ideally, you would site this barrel at a location within your back yard that is convenient to reach, and also gets full sunlight in the warmer months of the year to aid the conversion of wastes into compost. If you want more of a challenge, there are several plans online for building composting bins out of pallets or plywood. Either way you go, composting bins all operate upon the same general principle the promotion of the growth of bacteria within organic waste materials by controlling the introduction of oxygen and moisture. The idea is to accelerate the natural decomposition process.
In the home composting barrel the rule of thumb is that you need two general types of organic waste matter streams combined in the mix—brown and green. Brown materials include dead leaves, twigs, etcetera, while green materials are items such as lawn clippings, fruit and vegetable peelings and the like. The brown organic materials supply carbon and the green materials supply nitrogen. The best starting ratio is 1:1. By mulching these materials into smaller pieces you will increase the surface area as well as speed up the composting process. You want to layer in 3-5 cubic feet of material as the critical mass to begin a biological reaction in the pile. Wait two weeks to make the first “turning” with a hoe or other tool that fits in the barrel. The turning admits further oxygen to the pile and promotes bacterial growth.
Moisture in the pile, about the dampness of a wrung out sponge, supports the composting process and provides an ideal environment for earthworms and other insects that aid in the breaking down of organic material. A pile that is too dry will not decompose in a timely manner. Turned every two to four weeks and kept at a proper moisture content, a home compost barrel can finish a batch in about three months.