International Compost Awareness Week

"One man's trash is another man's treasure, and the by-product from one food can be perfect for making another."

Yotam Ottolenghi

Turning Waste into (Black) Gold

Did you know that according to the United Nations, around 17% of all food produced globally ends up wasted? The most recent USDA data from 2019 shows that 35.5 million tons of food waste in the United States was generated, with over 80% of that waste ending up in landfills. Food waste is a massive strain on landfills, as it produces a potent greenhouse gas, methane gas, which scientists estimate to be 28 times more effective at trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide over a 100-year time frame. So what can we do to mitigate metric tons of waste needlessly ending up in landfills yearly? One simple and effective strategy: composting.

A Canadian Initiative...

In honour of International Compost Awareness Week, which was started in Canada in 1995, let's go over a simple and easy method to create a compost pile for your garden and examine the multitude of benefits of composting for the environment, your gardens, and the soil. For more tips and information on how to utilize compost, check out the Compost Council of Canada.

The simplest method for composting in your backyard is called the "cold composting" method. Here are the basic steps to start:

A few Easy Steps:

• First, find a composting bin. You can buy a basic composting bin from your local garden centre. Hint: many municipalities trying to reduce the volume of materials sent to landfill offer compost bins at low cost to their residents. Or if you're feeling creative, build your own; make it compact with plenty of big holes for easy air circulation.

• Begin collecting all that food waste you might otherwise throw in the garbage. Avoid adding animal by-products, as they may attract small animals and pests.
• The recommended ratio of brown to green materials in a compost pile is roughly 3:1. For every three parts of brown materials, you should add one part of green materials. Brown materials are high in carbon and include items such as dry leaves, straw, wood chips, and even shredded paper. NOTE: whenever possible, shred the brown materials into fine pieces – this will speed-up their breakdown in your composter. Green materials are high in nitrogen and include items such as grass clippings, vegetable and fruit scraps, and coffee grounds.  

 • Maintaining the balance of brown and green materials is important to ensure that your compost pile decomposes properly. Too much brown material can slow down the composting process, while too much green material can make the pile too wet and can cause unwanted odours.

Follow your nose:

As always with soils and composting “your nose knows”. That ‘rotten egg smell’ means that your compost pile is not getting enough air circulation, and as a result, the active bacteria in the pile have switched from being aerobic (oxygen loving) to anaerobic (oxygen averse). It’s the anaerobic bacteria that produce the fowl smells - and signal that your compost pile needs your attention. The smell you want is that yeasty-sweet forest floor smell. That lovely smell is largely produced by Actinomyces: the ancient soil-dwelling string bacteria - some branches of which eventually evolved into fungi. The robust presence of Actinomyces indicates your soil biology (your soil microbiome) is in excellent working order. Your nose knows.

Keep an eye on it:

• As you add to your compost bin, use a shovel or hoe to turn the compost pile for aeration. Monitor the pile from time to time to make sure it's moist - but not waterlogged. There will be an explosion of beneficial microbes in the compost pile – this is the workforce that does the job of breaking everything down into the Gardeners Black Gold that you’re after (Humus). And it’s your job to keep that microbial workforce from becoming thirsty (or making sure that they don’t drown). Don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it.

• The composting process can begin within weeks, and after a few months your compost pile will be ready for use in your garden. Once it's ready, you can add your homemade nutrient-rich soil amendment to your garden either as a top layer dressing, or as a foundation when building a garden bed, or as part of your No-till Gardening process.

A perfect pair:

Composting is a huge boon for the environment, as it frees up precious space in landfills by diverting food waste, and mitigates greenhouse gas emissions. And it also has tremendous benefits for your garden and the soil ecology. Using compost and adding the Mycorrhizal Fungi contained in Root Rescue Transplanter, your garden will reap the benefits of healthy, living soil. Note: mycorrhizal fungi do not reproduce in compost – they require a symbiosis (partnership) with living plant roots to multiply and produce spores for the next generation. So, adding Root Rescue Transplanter to a compost pile is not going to ‘make more mycorrhizae’. Always think of Root Rescue as an input to apply on planting day. Using it when planting delivers mycorrhizal spores into direct contact with newly emerging roots – that’s where and when to apply Transplanter for the most benefit. A Transplanter application accomplishes mycorrhizal inoculation and watering, all in one easy step. Boom!

Better than store bought:

When organic and biodegradable materials, such as food and yard waste, are combined and allowed to break down, they release many nutrients, particularly: nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (N-P-K) the primary nutrients you'd find in a chemical-based (or Organic) fertilizer in your garden centre. So, instead of buying those valuable plant nutrients, just make them at home! Furthermore, microorganisms like bacteria, saprophytic fungi and worms break down and consume organic material, releasing enzymes that reduce these raw materials into simpler nutrient-rich compounds that plants can easily absorb. By composting, you can avoid using chemical-based fertilizers that are harmful to the environment and negatively affect the soil, the air, and our shared freshwater resources. Composting is a natural process that produces a highly nutrient-rich soil amendment. Adding compost to gardens, improves soil structure and overall soil health. For your efforts, you'll get healthier, higher-yielding plants, and a healthier ecosystem. So, celebrate International Compost Awareness Week, and start composting today!

Get Started:

One final composting tip: once you start composting – be forewarned - you will want to keep doing it (it is likely to become a very good obsession). One trick that Master Composters use, is to keep a small portion of the Black Gold that each compost batch produces (maybe 10%) and mix that “Compost Starter” evenly throughout the layers in your next batch. The wonderful soil biology in the finished compost will kick start the next batch. 


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