August 24, 2009

See you in September!

I'm long overdue for a trip back home to Toronto to see my family and friends, so I'll be heading there for one week.

Until then for more of my blog postings, check out my Classy Woman blog and I'll chat with you all again on September.2nd!

August 1, 2009

Start a Compost!

I challenge you to start a compost! It's very easy, costs next to nothing to start and is a great way to add nutrients to your lawn and avoid more waste from ending up in our landfills.
I'll admit I'm no compost expert but I started a compost pile along the side of our home (where we had a small empty space next to a long strip of hedges) about a year ago, I also had one in our family backyard as a child too. I've grown up with the concept of recycling and composting so it was natural for me to start one once I moved into a home with a yard of my own.
As I live in a very hot and humid climate year round I really did some research before getting started. At first I was worried about a bug infestation or animals getting into it-especially because it was a pile and not a bin. In my reading I learned that it was very unlikely with just veggies and other vegetation. In FL I thought for sure it would stink and it does a little but only when I'm right next to the pile if I don't have it covered. You will see some fruit flies, etc. feeding on the scraps but that is all part of the breakdown process.

A compost is NOT the place for meat or fish of any kind. You must stick to veggie remains, fruit peels & seeds, dirt, dried leaves, eggshells, coffee grinds, yard clippings etc. In places like Toronto, ON where I used to live they have city-wide composting programs and they pick up anything from cotton balls and tissues to banana peels and coffee grinds. I wish every city would implement such a service.

If you want to implement the most simple of compost forms (the compost pile) below are some steps so you're compost will decompose quickly and be effective fertilizer for your lawn.


1. Find an area that is somewhat inconspicuous or hidden away from pets and children. In fact, if you have children you probably won't want them playing in it (which they'd be likely to do) so you'd want to opt for a bin.

2. Once you find the space you'll create a square perimeter and you can use which ever materials you like to contain the scraps. I used bricks we had on hand and lined the perimeter, you can also use wood or rocks too. You can dig a whole about one foot deep, you'll want to clear out the grass if there is currently any there and turn the soil over a few times.

3. Take any collected scraps out to the pile right away and pour some water over it. You can then cover it with a little dirt if you like. The pile works best with heat and water to keep it moist and warm. If you live in a cooler climate you might also want to opt for a bin as the temperatures become much warmer. By the way-these bins have no bottom so all the material can go straight into the ground. Bins work faster too if you add worms to them, they'll eat right through the waste.

4. To get the most out of a compost many suggest to use a layer of food scraps and a layer of dried leaves as well as a bit of newspaper, cardboard and sawdust or wood chips. You see, each has different levels of various elements such as nitrogen which are crucial nutrients but also aid in the quick turnover of the scraps. You can create that lasagna type effect if you like. Mine is very basic-I literally dump scraps in the pile and leave them, I try to keep the pile moist and then I use a hoe to turn it over about twice per month. It does what I need it to and I can see it's making great soil. In fact some cantaloupe seeds that landed in the pile soon sprouted some leaves and a full on cantaloupe! We went on vacation where it was in extreme heat with little to no water for two weeks and it has since withered but you can see my point-it is great fertile ground!

5. Set up an inside bin in your kitchen so it is easy to take the scraps outside. We just use a large yogurt container with lid and fill it up about once per day and take it out. This will make your life so much easier than going outside several times per day. In fact, there are stainless steel bins you can buy with lids that are a good size and can live under your counter. The yogurt container works the best for us. Plus, once it gets really stink (hubby says it smells like chop suey) then we can just rinse and place in the recycle bin and use another one and on it goes.

The compost pile over time will start to produce darker, rich soil which is great for potted plants, flower beds an vegetable gardens. Because you may use it in your garden, be sure to avoid putting any weeds into it. Toss those instead, otherwise the weeds will takeover your compost and eventually where you place the soil which will be a huge headache down the road. To trap heat inside a pile you can cover it with a sheet of plastic and some bricks if you like.

Once you begin your compost you'll realize how much food waste was going into the landfills vs. feeding your lawn. Remember, those scraps previously lived in tied up plastic garbage bags that will take hundreds of years to break down, so those scraps would not get to benefit the earth. You'll save a little money too on rich planting soil (as you'll have your own) as well as garbage bags. If you think about it-fall pumpkins, watermelons, cantaloupes, honeydew, potato skin peels-all this can really start to add up!

My husband was a little skeptical when we first began and thought of it as an extra thing to do (as he did with recycling) but now he sees them as second nature and actually looks forward to taking the scraps out and seeing the little leaves and shoots of things growing in the pile-he was certainly excited about that cantaloupe growing!

I hope you'll venture out and start a compost of your own this summer!

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