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  • Dr. Allissa Gaul

When I went away to Med School one of my gifts was a Composter!

When I went away to medical school, one of my going away gifts (from my close friend Denise) was a composter.

Now perhaps you don’t think about a composter as a great gift. But I sure did! One of the reasons I ended up in naturopathic school is that I LOVED gardening, and I LOVED herbs and herbal medicine. And I really was fascinated by dirt. (This of course, may be genetic, since my son is constantly covered in dirt ;) )

It turns out that in order to have the best dirt, you’ll need compost, which adds nutrients to your plants and helps to hold onto moisture in the soil. Especially in Alberta, where soil often does not have a substantial amount of compost. Good growing dirt should have 25 (for your decorative plants) to 50% compost (for your vegetables). You need about 6 inches of soil for leafy crops and about 18 inches for root crops. That’s a lot, and you might find that your own yard is pitifully low in good growing dirt.

You can easily take your kitchen waste, and instead of putting it in the trash to stink away, you can turn that into great compost. The microorganisms in compost help to make your soil and your plants healthier, becoming part of an ecosystem that aerates soil and breaks down old food to liberate nutrients. Compost is a rich source of nutrients and really is a much better option that chemical fertilization, the health hazards of which are well-known and a constant threat in both the urban environment and the surrounding agricultural community.

In summer, it is quite easy to use a compost bin. Just put it out on a patch of dirt. This way worms are able to come up into it and help you, and some soil organisms that are already present will also help. Then just layer in your kitchen scraps, followed by some grass clippings (not your whole lawn’s worth!) and leaves you’ve raked up from last year. It should be 1 part scraps to 4 parts dry stuff from the yard. It takes about 3 months to make compost this way.

Composting in winter is also possible – just use worms in a vermicomposter! In a few months you could easily have compost, created right in your kitchen cabinet. When it comes closer to winter, we’ll talk about this more!

Want more information on why composting? Check out Backyard Composting YYC!

Curious to learn more? Watch the video. Learn how a landfill works and the benefits of composting versus burying material in the landfill.

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