Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Composting 101

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What is compost?

According to the Compast Council of Canada, composting is a natural biological process, carried out under controlled conditions, which converts organic material into a stable humus-like product called compost. During the composting process, various microorganisms, including bacteria and fungi, break down organic material into simpler substances. Composting is an aerobic process, meaning that the microorganisms require oxygen to do their work.

Benefits of Composting:

*Compost helps to maintain a healthy soil pH so that plants grow better

*Compost helps plants cope with stresses from drought and frosty temperatures

*Compost helps improve texture of soil

*Compost helps increase a sandy soil's moisture holding capacity
Compost keeps earthworms content so that they can go about their work of aerating the soil

*Compost is a great source of plant nutrients

A special nod to coffee:

Coffee grounds fit the standards set by gardeners for compost materials. The grounds, when mixed with soil, release nutrients that make the ground richer and more acidic. Plants that flourish in acidic soil will be healthier since they can get the needed nourishment from the ground. If you have a good supply of coffee grounds, just spread them evenly in your garden. Your plants will reward you by producing robust blooms.

*New for Muskoka: Visit Oliver's Coffee (Bracebridge, Port Carling, or Bala) for your free bucket of grounds.

Worried about wildlife?

*Don't compost food scraps. Use a worm bin (i.e. vermicomposting) indoors instead. Or bury your food scraps directly in the garden, about a foot below the soil's surface.

*Make sure your compost pile doesn't smell. Strong odors attract pests. Odors in a compost pile are the result of anaerobic activity, which means your pile is compacted or too wet and air can't reach all of the materials. Be sure to turn it regularly to avoid this problem.

Not a gardener?

If you can't use the compost in your garden, you can still compost! Most communities in Muskoka offer curbside compost pick-up. If you just can't generate enough compost, some towns offer days where compost material is available for pick-up for use in your garden.

Want to know more?

Peterborough Green-Up Fact Sheets: a whole series on composting!!

Environment Canada: Composting Tips

Green Action Centre (Manitoba) has some good information

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