Five Composting Myths

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While it may not be glamorous, composting is one of the simplest and most effective green activities. It reduces landfill waste and greenhouse gases, recycles organic materials and produces rich humus that improves our soil – all without expensive and toxic chemicals. So why isn't everyone composting? Probably because we have some misconceptions about what is involved. Read our myth-busters and get composting!

Myth #1: Composting is too much work
Actually, composting takes little effort on your part since Mother Nature does most of the work. You first must decide on what type of compost bin to use. Fortunately there is a composter for every conceivable dwelling. The initial set-up requires the most work, but after that, composting is pretty low maintenance. You can turn your compost frequently to give it oxygen and accelerate the process or you can let it sit for several months. Either method works.

Myth #2: Compost smells
Stinky compost is unhappy compost. Normal compost should smell like rich earth. Unpleasant compost odours are caused by lack of oxygen or too much water. Limited oxygen allows anaerobic bacteria to thrive, and this is the bacteria that's smelly. When there is enough oxygen present, anaerobic bacteria prevail, actually preventing bad smells. Keeping the compost loose and occasionally turning the pile adds oxygen and helps the anaerobic bacteria do their thing. It's the same deal with too much water. Composts need to be moist but not mushy. Mushy means you won't build up enough heat to get the bacteria party happening. If you are getting too much rainwater into the compost, place a tarp over the lid to keep it dry.

Myth #3: I can't compost because I live in the city
Urban composting has come a long way in the last few years, especially with the introduction of composting geared specifically for apartment or condo dwellers. Even if you don't have a back yard, you can compost using a vermicomposting set-up that uses red worms in a contained bin that fits under your kitchen sink. Your work involves feeding the worms some table scraps. For an outdoor compost bin, all you need is a place with good air circulation. The area should be about 1 metre x 1 metre x 1 metre (3' x 3' x 3'). Check with your local municipality for a composting program that supplies bins for a small fee or free of charge.

Myth #4: Composting attracts unwanted animals
Open piles of compost sometimes do attract small critters. The best way to prevent pests like squirrels, raccoons or mice from visiting your compost is to make sure it's completed enclosed. Avoid adding dairy, meat, bones, fat or pet manure to your pile, as their smell will attract animals.

Myth #5: You need exact proportions
The typical picture of a compost bin shows nice neat layers, but composting is not an exact science. Layers are not as important as a healthy mix of brown fibrous carbon material (dead leaves) and green nitrogen material (food scraps and lawn clippings). A way to maintain balance is to throw some leaves or grass clippings over your kitchen vegetable waste. Shredding or dicing large kitchen scraps will help speed up the process. But don't stress out too much about proportions - compost eventually happens.