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Backyard composting is a simple way to reduce the amount of waste that you place at the curb each week. Composting is a process that turns kitchen and yard waste into a dark, nutrient-rich soil called humus. The soil that is produced can be used to promote weed and erosion control, protects plant roots from sun/wind damage, conserves water, increases water retention in sandy soils, aids drainage in clay, and reduces soil diseases.
By returning nutrients back to the soil, compost reduces the need for expensive chemical fertilizers.
Buy a backyard composter
Backyard composters can be purchased from the City of Hamilton at a Municipal Service Centre. City Hall does not sell backyard composters.
Cost: $35 + HST.
You can purchase other types of backyard composters from a retail store of your choice.
Getting started with composting
- Residents are responsible for managing their own composting. Composters are not collected curbside by the City of Hamilton.
- Composters must be kept in the rear yard at least one metre from the property line.
- Alternate wet (kitchen scraps) and dry (yard material) waste.
- Chop or shred materials up before you put them into your composter so they break down faster.
- Composter contents should be moist like a damp sponge.
- Keep composting through the winter. The breakdown process will slow down and eventually stop once the pile freezes but it will start back up in the spring.
Tools for composting
- Container for collecting scraps in kitchen
- Pitchfork or shovel
- Compost cane
Common composting problems
- Bad odour: turn to aerate; add dry materials to the pile if it is too wet.
- Center of pile is dry: moisten with water and turn pile.
- Compost is damp and warm only in the middle: add more materials and mix all ingredients together.
- Compost is damp and sweet-smelling; not heating up: add grass clippings or manure.
- Compost is frozen: decomposition will begin again in the spring.
- Compost is not good quality: add equal portions of green and brown materials to compost.
- Insects or rodents: do not add meat, fish, or fatty foods to composter; cover with new soil.
- Compost is too wet: move to location with proper drainage; add dry leaves; aerate.
A composter will smell if it is not getting enough air or it is too wet. To prevent this, make sure you turn your compost regularly and add dry materials (leaves) to absorb moisture. Finished compost has a pleasant earth-like smell.
What to do with compost
The compost is ready to use when it is dark, crumbly, and most of the original identity of the material is lost. Screen the finished compost to remove materials that have not decomposed completely (such as nut shells or twigs). When your compost is ready, put it in your garden! Dig it into the earth before planting flowers, use it as a mulch or top dressing around plants and trees, or give it to a friend.
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