By Larraine Roulston:
To celebrate International Compost Awareness Week (ICAW) during May 6-12, composting councils are once again spreading the composting message. ICAW falls annually during the first full week in May. It was established in Canada in 1995 and by 2001, the UK Composting Association, the U.S. Composting Council and the Compost Council of Canada joined forces. Each year a theme is chosen, with this year being Compost! Healthy Soil, Healthy Food. In Australia, it’s Compost! Better Soil, Better Life, Better Future! The goal is to raise public awareness on how to create quality soil through composting that will
nurture healthy plants thus reducing the use of fertilizers and pesticides, which in turn improves water quality.
The composting councils’ efforts promote composting year-round; however, the strength of their message and programs are enhanced through their designated annual ICAW week of events.
Activities include: compost demonstrations, workshops, compost giveaways, displays, poster contests.
For a greener garden the humus material created from inside a composter can be spread over topsoil. It will improve your soil’s texture, water retention, air flow and overall organic content. What’s more, it is both easy to do and free. The success lies in laying kitchen peelings, coffee grounds, eggshells, etc. that you
discard everyday, with yard trimmings. These biodegradable materials, along with air and water, break down into a magnificent soil conditioner. The entire process of decomposition is complex but natural. In the food web, each organism, which includes insects, slugs, bacteria and fungi, has a job to do in turning food scraps into a rich, crumbly, dark compost. While you need to check that the pile remains moist (not soggy), basically you can sit back and let nature take its course.
Your composter should be located in a sunny, airy area and away from standing water. Add a base layer of leaves or brush to facilitate air flow. With a small kitchen container to collect your non-edible food bits, you are ready to begin. Continue to layer your kitchen food scraps which provide the nitrogen, followed by a handful of dry grass, leaves, sawdust from untreated wood, twigs, brush or bits of brown cardboard to provide the carbon that is necessary in the process. Soil should be added occasionally as it acts as an odor suppressor and introduces more microorganisms to speed up the decomposition.
Items which should not be placed into your backyard unit include: meat scraps, bones, dairy products and fats, as these are slow to decompose and may cause unpleasant odors. Also avoid adding cat and dog feces. Yard debris treated with pesticides, barbecue ashes or briquettes, rhubarb leaves, diseased plants and walnut shells contain chemicals toxic to soil microbes. Weeds with mature seeds should also be excluded.
When organics enter landfill, they contribute to greenhouse gases. Whether you compost on site, participate in curbside organics collection or take your food scraps to a compost drop-off center, you will be replenishing the soil and also helping to slow climate change.
Larraine Roulston authors the children’s Pee Wee at Castle Compost series. www.castlecompost.com