Composting: Food for Your Garden

  Most children love worms, digging their hands in […]

Composting: Food for Your Garden

Photo: Gerri Photography


Most children love worms, digging their hands into soil, and picking nutritious foods grown in backyard gardens – all the while learning about earth’s natural cycles. Part of a wholesome gardening experience is composting – a natural biological process in which worms and micro-organisms convert organic material (food scraps) into a dark nutrient-rich soil. Until recently, the combination of yard trimmings and unwanted food made up over 30% of Canada’s residential waste stream. By utilizing these valuable resources, composting is an opportunity for all of us to make a difference. If you have not already joined this green wave of recycling, let composting be your beginning.

Composting can be done in a yard of any size. If you live in an apartment, you can compost indoors, using red wiggler worms in a vermicomposter or worm bin. To start your outdoor compost pile, either purchase a composter bin or build one from scrap wood. If you choose to buy one, check with your municipality, as many offer a subsidy. Select a spot that is easily accessible, receives partial sunlight and airflow, and is located away from standing water. Turn the ground and add a base layer of brush materials to help with air ventilation and drainage. If you build it, the earthworms will come!

Your compost’s basic needs are food, air, and moisture. Fruit and veggie scraps are called ‘wets’ or ‘greens’ which add nitrogen to the heap. Dry leaves and twigs are called ‘browns’ which add carbon and enable airflow. When depositing your wet greens, add a handful of dry browns. A balanced compost heap decomposes readily.

In addition to kitchen greens, a large variety of organics, such as pet fur, can be composted. Discover online all the amazing items that will decompose. As well, check out what items are best excluded such as meat and dairy products.

It is essential that your pile is moist, but not wet. If it has an odour, the pile is too wet and requires more dry leaves and ventilation. If it is too dry, add liquids from unwanted beverages and water from rinsed food containers. To speed up the cycle, chop food into smaller pieces and turn the pile periodically. Occasionally add soil to introduce micro-organisms or acquire red wigglers to enhance the process. In a couple of months, you’ll have good compost at the bottom of the pile and can retrieve it when you open the sliding piece at the bottom of the compost unit.

In colder seasons the composting cycle slows down, and by late autumn your composter may be getting full. Before the frost, remove the unit from the decomposing materials inside. Push over your standing heap and add leaves. Cover the mound with a dark tarp or plastic garbage bags to draw the sun’s heat, remembering to anchor the corners. This pile will be ready to use by spring. Place your empty composter beside the mound, keeping several bags of leaves on hand to use over the winter. With the return of spring, thawing helps to break up the organics and the dormant compost critters return to action. The cycle will quickly speed up again, thus decreasing the volume of the heap and enabling you to continue composting.

By May, most of the pile under the dark covering will be rich soil ready to dig into your garden. While sowing seeds, take this opportunity to teach your children to share, by planting an extra row to donate to your local food bank.

Compost is more than a fertilizer and more than a soil conditioner; it is a symbol of continuing life!



Author: Larraine Roulston Nancy Roulston

Larraine Roulston writes children’s adventure books about composting. Visit Nancy Roulston is a writer and editor with a BScH in environmental science, email

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