a peek inside the fishbowl

20 Apr, 2015

The true sign of spring

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Home/reno|Misc. life

Back yard composting

I’ve written about composting before but here I am again. I love it so much I just can’t stop. The idea that our old banana peels and coffee grounds makes this rich garden soil is so amazing (and so is the price tag: FREE). I use this compost to fill up all of our containers of flowers and herbs every spring, with only a small bit of store-bought soil to smooth over the top.

This weekend it was finally time to check the backyard composter and get it going again. I tossed in a bowl of fruit peels and vegetable scraps and gave the whole thing a good turn. The scraps break down with the help of both aerobic and anaerobic kinds of bacteria (meaning, bacteria that needs air to survive and another that does not). The bacteria which needs air is faster at breaking down the compost, so that’s the kind I want to encourage by regular turning and poking of the compost. Water is important too, but in order to help keep the bacteria population healthy the compost pile can’t be soaking wet.

I was surprised that the leaves in our compost bin were crunchy dry after the long winter, so I dumped in a bucket of water right after I took this photo:

Checking the inside of the compost bin

In a month or so I’ll scrape out the dirt that has been brewing at the bottom of the composter and it will be SO SATISFYING. I just hope our green bin won’t feel too neglected for the next while.

6 Responses to "The true sign of spring"

1 | binkee

April 21st, 2015 at 9:29 am


We too have put the green bin away until December. The compost bins have been turned after adding the old dried garden trimmings. In a month we’ll be planting the food garden and mixing in the new composted soil. I love that part of the cycle.

Happy Earth Day!

2 | andrea tomkins

April 21st, 2015 at 9:32 am


binkee – Happy Earth Day to you too!
I should clarify that we’re still using the green bin though for things that don’t go into the backyard pile (meat scraps etc.). I also tend to throw my weeds in there because I’m not certain our backyard composter gets hot enough to kill the seeds!

3 | Roz

May 9th, 2015 at 6:38 am


we green bin religiously but the previous owners of our home left a composter in the backyard so now I’m curious about starting to use it.

I’m curious – do you have 2 separate containers in the kitchen? One for the green bin and one for the composter? Is it just meat scrapes that don’t make it into your composter?

4 | andrea tomkins

May 9th, 2015 at 9:31 am


You can certainly have two different bins.
We don’t have a separate container per se, but during dinner prep I will sometimes have a big bowl set aside for the carrot and potato peels, lettuce ends, eggshells etc. and that’s what ends up in the backyard composter. To cut down on fruit flies I will throw a pile of dry leaves in there from time to time, just to cover it up. Alternating green and brown is also a good way to accelerate the process.

In terms of kitchen scraps that go into the backyard bin, it’s strictly fruit and veggie scraps, eggshells and coffee grounds. The city bin is for bones and meat, scrapings of the dinner plate (salads with dressing of it for example) and dairy (i.e. mouldy cheese).

5 | Roz

May 10th, 2015 at 5:38 pm


Thanks! One last question if you don’t mind – do you find the composter attracts racoons to your yard?

6 | andrea tomkins

May 10th, 2015 at 11:07 pm


Racoons haven’t been an issue. I’m guessing it’s because other things (read: stinky garbage cans) are more likely to capture their attention. I don’t know!

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human offspring: Emma (23) and Sarah (21). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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