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Compost your leaves

Composting at Home


Compost is a dark, crumbly, earthy smelling material that is great for your garden. Composting is the natural breakdown of organic material (kitchen and yard materials) by micro-organisms (bacteria and fungi), insects and worms.  See below for how you can get your own backyard composter.

What are the benefits of compost?

Composting is nature's way of recycling. Compost is a natural process and returns nutrients and organic matter to the soil, and feeds beneficial micro-organisms, insects and worms. It improves the texture, oxygen-retaining capabilities and moisture-holding capacity of the soil. Compost is a soil conditioner and a source of fertilizing nutrients. It conditions and improves the overall structure of soils by adding organic matter. Compost contains fertilizing nutrients that are released slowly over time. This can reduce, if not eliminate, the need for chemical fertilizers.

Beyond its benefit to gardens, there's another compelling reason to have some form of composting system in your yard. Putting garden and kitchen material in a compost bin removes these materials from curbside waste collection and saves landfill space. Approximately 30% of household waste in Ontario is consists of yard material or food waste that is compostable.  Composting reduces greenhouse gases that are produced when organic material decomposes in a landfill without oxygen.

Composting is about maintaining a good mix of 'greens' (nitrogen rich materials), and 'browns' (carbon rich materials). 'Greens' are kitchen scraps and grass clippings and 'browns' are dry fall leaves. Always cover or mix 'greens', especially food wastes, with a layer of 'browns'. If you don't have a supply of dry leaves, soil or compost can be used to cover 'greens'. A good technique is to build your compost pile in layers of 'greens' and 'browns' so you won't need to mix and turn the pile.

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  • The backyard composter has a bad odour

    The pile does not have enough air or is too wet. Turn the pile (mixing the outside to inside and bottom to top). If the pile is still too wet, add some dry brown materials.

  • Nothing is happening

    The pile will not heat up and may not have enough nitrogen-rich green materials. Mix in a natural nitrogen source like fresh grass clippings, kitchen scraps, bone or blood meal. If the pile is too dry, add some moisture and mix. Small piles may not heat up.

  • There are insects hovering around the backyard composter

    Insects are interested in the food in your backyard composter. Always bury kitchen scraps with a layer of dry leaves. If brown materials are not available, cover with a layer of compost or soil.

  • The pile is dug up and disturbed

    Animals may be getting in to the pile. Make sure you do not add meat or fat to the pile. You can animal proof your backyard composter by installing a tight fitting or hinged lid and by wrapping hardware cloth (wire mesh) at ground level and up the sides of the bin.

  • What can I compost?

    Compostable material is split into two categories:

    "Greens" - Nitrogen Rich Materials

    • Kitchen scraps including vegetables and fruit scraps, crushed egg shells, tea bags, coffee grounds with filters and paper towels
    • Garden and yard materials
    • Grass clippings - or leave this natural fertilizer on the lawn

    "Browns" - Carbon Rich Materials

    • Dry leaves
    • Bread, pasta and rice
    • Sawdust and shavings
    • Finely ground wood chips
    • Well shredded paper
    • Shredded egg cartons and cardboard
  • What materials do not go in the backyard composter?
    • Pet manure or litter
    • Weeds that have gone to seed
    • Any diseased plants
    • Meat, fish, fowl or the bones
    • Fats or oils: e.g. dairy products, eggs, peanut butter, spreads (these materials breakdown more slowly than plant material and may attract pests or cause odours)
    • Ash, sawdust or shavings from chemically treated or painted wood
  • Winter Tips for Composting
    • Save fall leaves to add to the compost pile over the winter and into spring.
    • With a mulching mower you can eliminate fall raking. Mulch and bag your leaves and use them later in the composter.  If your neighbours don't compost yet, ask them for their leaves.
    • Empty your composter in the fall to make room for winter materials. Partially rotten compost can be dug into vegetable beds as feed for the earthworms.
    • The warmer the composter is the better it will work so adding leaves will help to insulate the pile. Choose a sunny location or pile straw and leaves around the composter.
    • Keep a path to the composter shovelled. Don't want to trek through the snow - place a container by the back door. Make sure it has a secure lid (a garbage can will work). To help soak up fluids and balance the nitrogen/carbon mix add a layer of coffee, shredded paper, sawdust or coffee grounds every week. The disadvantage of this method is the mass will freeze and you will need to wait until spring to dump it in the composter.
  • How can I get a composter?

    City of London residents can purchase from an EnviroDepot for $35 each (taxes included).  There are four different units available, based on manufacturer availability.  View Flyer for details.

    1. The Earth Machine

    300 litre capacity (10.5 cubic feet)

    Can compost both kitchen scraps and garden materials/leaves

    2. The Large Capacity Bin

    350 litre capacity (12.4 cubic feet)

    Excellent on its own, or if you already have an Earth Machine, this one is great for storing and composting fall leaves

    3. The Rotating Composter

    170 litre capacity (6 cubic feet)

    As a small unit, it is excellent for composting kitchen fruit and vegetable scraps without the addition of garden trimmings and leaves

    Requires regular rotation (it's easy)

    Produces compost quickly

    4. The Green Cone Digester

    200 litre capacity (7 cubic feet)

    It must be dug into the ground

    'Digests' rather than 'composts'

    Can be used for meat and pet waste

    Composters are also available at some hardware stores and garden centres.

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