a peek inside the fishbowl

14 Apr, 2014

Getting ready for a new season of composting

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Home/reno|Oh! Things!|Yaktivism

Our backyard compost bin

We are a little bit compost crazy here at Casa Fishbowl. We have a city-issued green bin, a backyard composter (it’s big and black with two hinged flaps on top) as well as two big “cages” for leaf compost in the back corner of our lot.

We’ve been using the big green bin all winter for all of our compost (in partnership with our Kitchen Cone, which I still love), but now that it’s warmed up a little I’m starting to divert scraps into our covered backyard bin again. Why am I starting now? (a) The sun is high and warm enough to start melting the frozen interior and (b) because I like the rich and gorgeous soil that I get from it.

Every few days I’ve been adding a bowl full of what I consider to be the “best” scraps to our backyard compost:

  • egg shells
  • coffee grounds
  • orange and banana peels
  • carrot tops and peels
  • apple cores

Today I also tossed in a couple handfuls of dry leaves in there (it’s important to get the right mix!). It felt really good to do so too. I don’t even consider it to be extra work… this is how much I love Compost Harvest Time. In a week or two so I’ll pour in a bucket of water and give the whole thing a good turn with a pitchfork. Poking holes in it will help speed up the process.

Are you compost crazy like me? You might also be coveting this compost thermometer from Lee Valley. (I am. Seriously.) And related to all this blue bin/black bin/garbage talk, I just noticed that terra20 carries these special brackets to keep the bins off the garage/shed floor. Yay spring!

p.s. speaking of spring, don’t miss the terra20 and Tiggy Winkle’s giveaway going on right now!


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9 Responses to "Getting ready for a new season of composting"

1 | Tatiana

April 14th, 2014 at 8:47 am

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“Hello, my name is Tatiana and I’m compost crazy” :)

It’s true, Andrea! There’s just something special about composting. All that beautiful compost generated from kitchen waste.

After I discovered that the best way to compost was to save our raked leaves and combine them with kitchen scraps there was no holding me back.

Thanks for the tip about the thermometer, I’ll be checking it out.

2 | Chantal

April 14th, 2014 at 11:48 am

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I am compost crazy too. When I first moved out on my own I had a vermicompost bin in the front hall of my apartment. For years I had a square black composter similar to yours and two years ago my DH got me a rolling one from Lowes for Mothers Day (you know you’re compost crazy when a bin as a gift for Mothers Day makes you happy). I got rid of my black bin and I regret it. I miss it a lot. The rolling one I have is no where near as good. So I focus on leaves in the rolling bin for now. I am diligent with my green bin use. And maybe someday I’ll get a black one again.

3 | Javamom

April 14th, 2014 at 12:09 pm

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It must be spring-ish because I too was able to walk all the way to the back of the yard to empty my precious veg and fruit scraps into our home compost system! During the polar vortex the backdoor was frozen shut and/or too much snow blocked us from going anywhere in that yard…so YEP! doing that too!

4 | Jeff Leiper

April 14th, 2014 at 7:58 pm

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Andrea, thanks for finally giving me the opportunity to make the world’s most boring campaign promise.

I’ve been a huge fan of composting for years. It took me many years of trial and error, but I’m finally able to reduce a bin full of scraps to beautiful dirt in no time flat. I don’t stop over the winter. There’s always a low level of bacterial activity even through the coldest weeks, and all that fresh material just explodes in the spring! I actually use two composters. I’ll switch over in the spring, and let one bin get good and seasoned before adding it to my lawn and planters – no more blossom-end rot here!

Newspaper is a huge part of it. I use a shredded copy of a paper once in the spring, then late summer, to accelerate the decomposition. The worms love the cellulose, and it evens out the moisture – releasing moisture if the mix gets dry, soaking it up if it’s too wet. And, as it decomposes fairly quickly, it leaves little air pockets. I’ve also been known to “liberate” bags of leaves in the fall – they are amazing accelerants, also.

Which brings me to the world’s most boring campaign promise. Maybe 17 years ago I wrote an article in Newswest about composting, quoting at length the City’s expert on it. They had some fantastic material online about backyard composting. Now, the City’s “waste explorer” doesn’t list backyard composting as an option, which is frustrating. So many of the items listed could be turned into great compost steps from your back door, or even in a vermicomposter.

My promise is to work to bring those resources back online, and to re-jig the Waste Explorer and distributed fliers. I know the City has a (questionable) contract with Orgaworld to deliver a minimum amount of material – but why truck it away, and then not be able to use it to fertilize your own plants? On so many levels, backyard composting just makes better sense.

Great post, Andrea!

5 | Danielle

April 15th, 2014 at 9:40 am

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Instead of buying new books, I use the library; and I cycle to get there.

6 | Lisa from Iroquois

April 15th, 2014 at 7:18 pm

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Do you break up your egg shells? I was surprized to discover they were not breaking down in my composter when I just tossed them in somewhat whole.

7 | andrea

April 16th, 2014 at 8:04 am

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Lisa, I find the egg shells get crushed sufficiently as I poke and turn the pile. :)

8 | andrea

April 16th, 2014 at 8:06 am

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Thanks Jeff! I appreciate your taking the time to comment! Garbage and compost issues aren’t top-of-mind for everyone, but they are important to me.

9 | A good stink.

April 23rd, 2014 at 4:52 pm

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Composting is a joy. Good for my garden and my soul. I compost all year round although winter can be a challenge. Squirrels will gnaw through your composter when everything is frozen and white. It’s just a matter of time because they are REALLY hungry. I have found a way to deal with that issue. I get olive barrels for cheap ($20 up in Gracefield) and make an extra hefty lid (2×4’s). I then wrap it in wire mesh. You need two of these if you’re winter composting because the compost doesn’t do much in the winter and it fills up fast. But as Jeff mentioned, when spring comes, the thawed veggie matter shrinks and starts to break down very quickly. I have never added paper but will try it. We have huge bags or shredded paper at the office. That would work really well.

Composting is a good thing for young minds. Let your kids see what you are doing and why. Get them involved. Have them haul and fill the composter, and let them turn the compost. It stinks but what a great lesson….sometimes it hurts (a wee bit) to do good for the environment. After a while, it doesn’t stink so much. It kinda smells like doing the right thing.

Oh and vote for Jeff ! I totally agree that something has gone off the rails at City Hall when it comes to educating about backyard composters. Why are the plastic/black backyard composter no longer included as an option for composting or being “green”. It seems the City has painted itself into a corner with the Orgiworld. We were had….big time. Good idea, bad implementation. There are circumstances where green bins are the best (only) option but for most folks with back yards, composting bins are definitely the way to go. They are without a doubt, the most eco-friendly option.

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our two daughters Emma (15) and Sarah (13). I am the editor of the Kitchissippi Times, Capital Parent Newspaper, and a regular contributor to MediaSmarts.ca. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger, and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999... which makes me either a total dinosaur or a veteran, I'm not sure which! The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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