After polling a bunch of you on Instagram I was shocked to learn that some of the cities you’re in don’t have a city composting program. All that food waste is just being thrown out!
To help minimize all of this going into the landfill I decided to put together some info for you on how to set up and maintain a backyard compost.
I do live in an apartment so I had to do some research to find the best and EASIEST way for you to to be able to do backyard compost without feeling overwhelmed. Honestly, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy the whole situation really is.
Among my sources I got amazing info from an old student of mine, Emma, Who has been all about compost as a kid as well has Lauren Maris, the Environmental Program Specialist for the City Of Red Deer. Im so thankful for their willingness to share their expertise and resources with me to help some of you!
Let’s dive in!
Composting in your backyard sounds very overwhelming and a lot of work. As a busy mom its easy to think you couldn’t be bothered. As I mentioned above, I was pleasantly surprised how easy it really was.
The Hansen Family in Red Deer is a family of 4 who did a short video series with the City Of Red Deer that followed them for a year in their composting journey. You can watch that by clicking here
You can easily invlove the kids which will help lessen the load for you and will help teach them at the same time.
To get started you’ll need three things
1. A Composter
…well, two composter’s.
Both a large yard composter and a countertop composter (kitchen catcher) can be found in your local hardware store, garden centre or make one (click here for plans)
You could bypass a kitchen catcher for brown paper lunch bags, regular Tupperware or something similar instead.
We like to store our compost in the freezer to avoid flies but being in an apartment we don’t take it our as frequently.
If you want to be fancy you can get one of those turning composter’s in which case you don’t need an aerator
2. A Wing Digger or other sort of aerator.
This is a simple tool to help you stir the compost with very minimal effort.
The Wing Digger has wings that close when being pushed down into the compost then expand out as its lifted up. Thank you to the visual picture below brought to you by the Lee Valley Website.
You could use a shovel but it would require more work.
You can talk to your local garden centre or home hardware store for other options they may carry.
If you are fancy and got a turning composter skip this.
Thats all you need to get it all going! how easy is that?
Once you’ve got what you need. Put your yard composter in a convenient location. Theres no rules here, Place it where it works the best for your family.
Get It Started
This is only done once when your composter is empty. This is probably the most labour intensive part but as I said its only done once when its empty.
Step 1: Add Twigs
This creates airflow to the bottom of the compost. If you don’t have a lot of twigs you can mix it will paper egg cartons.
Step 2: Add Browns
Roughly about 10cm worth of browns. This includes dried brown leaves, coffee filters, paper egg cartons, toilet paper tubes, shredded newspaper, cardboard cut up into small pieces, brown paper bags, pinecones etc.
Step 3: Add water
Water your pile so that it sticks together and has a similar consistency of a damp sponge.
Its important its not drenched.
Step 4: Add Greens
Add a kitchen catcher worth, about 5cm, of food waste. This is classified as your greens and includes Veggie & fruit scraps, tea leaves, coffee grounds, green yard & garden waste, egg shells, flowers etc.
Step 5: Add Soil
To get things going add a shovel full of soil. If you don’t have any you could just skip this step
Once you’ve set up your composter and completed steps 1-5 you’re ready for the everyday stuff.
Its super simple and follows a general ratio of 2 parts browns to 1 part greens.
This part does not need to be exact and can easily be adjusted without anything detrimental happening.
For a visual example: for every one kitchen catcher of greens add two of browns. You can either guesstimate in the same kitchen catcher how much of each category you have or you can go with two kitchen catchers if you’re into measuring more precisely.
Heres a list of only a few examples of each category:
-Veggie & Fruit Scraps
– Tea leaves & Coffee grounds
– Green yard & garden waste
– Egg shells
*Do not put meat or dairy in your home composter. Special equipment needed to get it to heat up enough to breakdown. City programs typically have this ability.
– Dried brown leaves
-Paper egg cartons
-Toilet paper tubes
-Shredded newspaper or cardboard
-Brown paper bags
Water it about once a week to make sure it maintains the rung out sponge dampness. If its rainy , snowy or frozen skip this.
This step can be fun to include your kids. They can help add to the pile and mix it up. They can see how we can emulates or recreate what happens naturally in nature. Sort of like an at home science experiment or project.
Does it stink?
This usually means theres too much greens and not enough oxygen.
Add browns and mix it up to fix it.
Does it smell sweet and not warming up?
Add some nitrogen rich greens to your pile
Do you have pests or rodents?
Some meat, dairy or fatty items got into your compost. Its best to remove them.
Small fruit flies are normal even though some of us classify those under the pests category.
Don’t lift the lift with your face over the compost.
Another Other more complex issues please email me and I can try to help or forward you to someone who can Sarah@simplysarah.ca
Don't worry I have a cheat sheet. Print it off or save it to your phone
Composting In Each Season
This is the easiest. Follow the instructions for daily maintenance as mentioned above. Use a 2:1 ratio & mix weekly, Water if needed
Continue using the ratio of 2:1 mixing it weekly & water if necessary. If you do have compost that has turned to soil remove it. You can use it yourself or donate it to a neighbour. If this is your first year doing this it may not be ready yet and thats ok.
Continue using the ratio of 2:1 mixing it weekly if its not frozen. If it is frozen don't worry its not ruined. Spring will swoop in to save the day, it'll decompose faster once thawed. If you have room add a thin layer of snow to maintain moisture.
You guessed it, Continue using the ratio of 2:1 mixing it weekly & water if necessary. This is the season with the most work. Once things are thawed mix it really really well & add a shovel full of soil to reactivate everything. Around mid to late may check to see if you've got any soil. if you do shovel it out and use it in your gardens or donate to a neighbour.
That concludes my giant post about backyard composting.
I really hope it helps you and gives you the inspiration to start your own.
I love seeing all of you making all these amazing eco friendly changes so please share with me on social media. Click the facebook and/or Instagram logo below.