Compost Mulch

From the Comox Valley Echo, Tuesday 1 Bin w raised bedsOctober 2013, Ask a Pro

Should I be putting compost on the garden now?
I can’t think of a time when it is not good to add compost. The fall is an especially good time, though. You will be protecting your garden from the driving winter rains that compact the soil. The compost helps to insulate the soil and allow those millions, oops trillions, of worker microbes you have to continue to do their magic. The warmer the soil, the more busy the microbes. In the spring, the soil will be so primed for growing your plants; you will be startled at how vigourous your veggies will be. So, yes, find a sunny day and spread a layer of compost on your garden. If you want to take it a step further, plant a winter cover crop on top.

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Speedibins in school gardens!

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We are setting up Speedibins in local school gardens! The kids are leading the food garden charge. Read Leslie’s excellent blog about the latest installation from the Duchess of Dirt page.

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What’s best: Sun or shade for your composter?

From the Comox Valley Echo, Tuesday 3 September 2013, Ask a Pro


Will my composter work better in the sun?


Surprisingly, we have found that the composters do better in the shade. If they are in the sun they tend to dry out too fast and need to be frequently watered to keep the worms and microbes damp and alive. The heat from decomposition comes from the thermophilic (heat-loving) bacteria, not the sun. These bacteria are just as enthusiastic in the shade. Worms are happiest in a temperature between 15 and 25 C. And worms like it dark. If your best option for the location of your bin has to be a sunny spot, just make sure that it stays damp. Keep the lid on to slow evaporation. However, sometimes on rainy days I leave the lids off for lazy-girl watering. The worms are grateful. And happy worms make salubrious compost!

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It’s easy to prevent maggots in greenbins

From the Comox Valley Echo, Tuesday 6 August 2013, Ask a Pro


I saw a news story about maggots in some curbside pickup greenbins. What’s going on?

Admiring some compost

Admiring some compost


Yes, that is a bit of a yuck issue. Happily it is easily controlled. Maggots are fly larvae and

have about a 7 day life cycle. They are attracted to protein sources – meat and bones primarily – and thrive in warm weather. To get rid of them, you need to prevent access to the fly treats. For your greenbin, there are several strategies. Wrap meat in paper. Or freeze it first. Or cover with leaves or soil or even greens. Wash and dry the greenbin after each pickup. Larvae hatch in about 48 hours so it’s best to put the stinkies out just the day before pickup.

You can compost meat and bones in the metal Speedibin composter also. Just make sure that they are buried several inches into the compost. Flies won’t dig through two inches of browns or soil. But do not put meat and bones in plastic or open bins or you may have worse problems than harmless but icky maggots. We have found that compost worms love meat and fish scraps and the resulting compost is luxuriously fertile!

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Put your composter on Earth!

From the Comox Valley Echo, Tuesday 2 July 2013, Ask a Pro


Does my composter need to sit on earth or can I put it on the patio?

Speedibin with lid off

Speedibin with lid off


Good composters sit on earth or lawn to take advantage of the diverse microbes in the soil underneath. Worms and macro-organisms will be attracted to the feast. Water can transfer and keep the moisture content more stable. In a warm moist environment, bacteria can double about every 20 minutes. So one cell could multiply to over a billion in 10 hours. Talk about compound interest! They will make fast work of your organic scraps and leave a smorgasbord for the worms. And all that rich nutritive material added to your garden will feed your plants to keep them healthy and lush.

One way to take advantage of the soil organisms is to place your composter right in a garden. The soil underneath will become luxurious. There is so much life in the soil it is you might as well take advantage of it.

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Managing your compost with one bin

From the Comox Valley Echo, Tuesday 4 June 2013, Ask a Pro


My composter is filling up and now we have tons more yard waste. Do I have to get another composter?


With some easy management, most households can get by with one composter. When your bin is full, let it sit for at least a week. In the meantime, you could freeze your kitchen scraps if they get out of hand. Then shovel out all that rich living earth. Scoop back the pieces that are not composted into the now empty composter for reprocessing.

Prepare your empty bin by starting with some fluffy carbon-rich material like straw or dry leaves (that you cleverly saved in the fall, right?). Add the stockpiled kitchen scraps and start layering your carbon-rich browns and nitrogen-rich greens. Layer in some scoops of that dark worm-satiated compost that you shoveled out. Always top off with a layer of browns. You’ll have a second batch of compost before you know it!

The compost that you shoveled out will still be curing but go ahead and use it all over your garden.

Of course, you could always get a second bin and alternate between the two.


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Compost activators

From the Comox Valley Echo, Tuesday 7 May 2013, Ask a Pro


Do I need to add an activator to get my compost started?


No. If you have a reasonable balance of carbon and nitrogen materials in your compost, you do not need an activator to start the decomposition. The needed micro-organisms are plentiful from the ground under your composter and on the leaves and scraps that you add. Just keep it damp and airy.

Inoculants are different in that they supply the bacteria and fungus needed, not nutrients. Tumbler composters usually come with inoculant as they are not connected to Earth. Again they can be had for free from old compost, like a sourdough culture, or soil from your yard. Store bought soil is less effective as it is often sterilized first.

If you are starting with a brand new compost system and can’t wait for the bugs to get going, here are a few readily available activators: dog food, alfalfa meal, manure from grass eaters (e.g. horses or rabbits, NOT dogs or cats!), dandelions, yarrow, comfrey, blood meal, fish meal, beer and ammonia. But the best activator of all … is pee. You figure out the logistics on that one!

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And the winner is …

In celebration of International Compost Awareness Week, we had a contest for your best garden tips. The prize is our favourite composting book, The Complete Compost Gardening Guide by Barbara Pleasant and Deborah Martin. By random draw, the winner is ….ta da … Leslie H.

Fabulous tips all! Thanks for sharing.

I’m off to sprinkle coffee grounds on the carrots, crush egg shells on the tomatoes and build a yeast/water trap for the voracious slugs. Happy gardening everyone!

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Why Backyard Composting is Better than Municipal Composting

From the Comox Valley Echo, Tuesday 5 March 2013, Ask a Pro


Why is backyard composting better than municipal composting?


  1. You don’t have large diesel trucks rumbling through neighbourhoods.
  2. It doesn’t require large tracks of land for processing.
  3. It costs less. My Mum pays $275.52 a year for her privately-owned curbside pickup in Victoria. But a good composter (ok, like our Speedibin!) costs $199 and lasts about 30 years, under $7 per year. The town of Fredericton calculated that 3,000 backyard composters saved over $100,000 a year in waste disposal.
  4. Best of all, you get rich compost for your garden and you know what’s in it.

A comprehensive study was done in North Van if you want to learn more. Both the Executive Summary and full report are in our articles page. One new composter bragged “We made only 2.5 kg of garbage in the last 2 months and almost 50 kg of compost!”

Of course large scale composting is better than taking nutritive organic material to a landfill where it produces methane. And for some people, like my Mum, the curbside pickup is easy. But the ideal for the planet and pocketbook is composting right where the material is produced.

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Admiring some compost

From the Comox Valley Echo, Tuesday 8 January 2013, Ask a Pro


I resolve to start composting in 2013. What do I need?


Excellent resolution! Backyard composting is one of the most effective things an individual can do to improve the environment.

There are many ways to compost – a system to fit every situation. Consider:

  • Backyard bins (our favourite of course!)
  • Indoor vermicomposting with red wiggler worms
  • Open three-compartment pens for yard waste
  • Trenches or pits buried in your garden
  • Communal compost systems for condos, schools and commercial kitchens
  • In-ground digesters to dispose of waste rather than produce compost
  • Bokashi fermenting systems to pre-digest wastes before further composting
  • Or even a basic “chop and drop” composting right on the garden.

Choose a system to fit your needs. We simply use a stainless pail with a lid in the kitchen to collect scraps and every few days take it to the Speedibin, dump and cover with leaves. (Usually we admire the worms too.) We add grass clippings and yard waste as produced. Easy and tidy.

For more on how to compost, our composting handbook is a free download from our website, Help yourself.

Whatever your solution, you are an asset to Earth. Your bonus: rich nutritive compost!


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