Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Myth or Fact: Toxic Compost

"I heard that rhubarb leaves will make my compost toxic. Is that true?"

Rhubarb leaves break down in a compost pile and will not add toxicity to your compost.
Go ahead! Throw them in.

Where Did This Myth Come From?
It is said that we first realized rhubarb leaves were toxic during World War I, when the leaves were promoted as a good food source in Britain. Many citizens fell ill, and they realized that the leaves were the cause!

Rhubarb leaves make us sick because they contain high concentration of a corrosive substance called oxalic acid. This acid is common in plants. At low levels, it is perfectly safe for human consumption. The sour stalks that make such yummy pies have small amounts of oxalic acid and are fine for us to enjoy all day long. The oxalic acid in just one rhubarb leaf can be hard on the kidneys and cause someone to feel unwell.

So Rhubarb Leaves Must Be Bad for the Compost, Right?

When the leaves begin to break down in your compost, the acid becomes diluted as it mixes with the rest of the material in the bin. This effectively neutralizes the acid, meaning that the finished product will be unaffected and is great to use on anything from house plants to vegetable gardens. In fact, rhubarb leaves contain some essential micronutrients that will benefit your compost nicely.

When adding rhubarb leaves to your compost, don't forget to also cut or rip them up, especially if you're adding a lot at once. Smaller pieces break down more quickly, and you avoid creating a matted layer that is harder to fluff your bin. It's win win!
Source: How To Garden Videos
Visit edmonton.ca/compost
Get the Keep Composting newsletter
(Get compost info straight to your inbox, just 4 newsletters/season.)
Go to Compost 'S cool

Friday, May 11, 2018

Gifts from the Compost Heap by MCR Maria K.

Republished thanks to Simple Moodlings (October, 2014). Thank you, Maria.

Besides giving me lots of great additive for our heavy clay-based soil, our compost pile gave me four other wonderful gifts this fall...
There were probably a dozen tomato seedlings growing on the top of my half-finished compost bin, so I dug four up and brought them into the greenhouse at the beginning of September (just before that first frosty snowfall on September 8th). Here's what they look like today...
A bit sparse and spindly, but there's fruit on those vines. As the sun is getting weaker by the day, this experiment might only give us a few tomatoes, as there will come a point when heating the greenhouse might seem a bit silly, and I'm not sure bringing these plants into the house will help much as our triple-paned energy efficient windows block out valuable rays. I think most of these are heirloom cherry tomatoes, so it's not like we'll get a big feed regardless, but it's fun to try. 

In the meantime, I'm plugging the benefits of composting to anyone who will listen, and borrowing leaves from family, friends and neighbours for next year's composting (we go through at least 20 big bags of leaves per year, if not more -- I always forget to count!) This year's compost is pretty much used up -- I dug a lot into the garden boxes on Tuesday, and yesterday and today I planted compost with my 113 tulip bulbs. It's nice to know that they have a good start in their compost/soil mix. I can't explain how good it feels to remediate my soil with the good black stuff I worked on making most of the summer. Way better than any chemical fertilizer money can buy!

If you like the idea of composting, but aren't sure how, there are likely books at your public library, or courses in your community. Failing that, feel free to leave a message below and I'll get back to you!

Visit edmonton.ca/compost

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-Qps6mDNK0fI/Vaa91DooqDI/AAAAAAAACEs/Ji4Mz78fHjI/s1600/Maria%2BK%2Bfor%2Bblog.jpgMaria K. is an MCR who is all about living simply, reducing consumption and waste, gardening, and feeding the soil we depend on for good food. She has more Simple Suggestions at simplemoodlings.blogspot.ca.


Sunday, May 6, 2018

Dishing the Dirt on Compost Week 2018

Did you know that composting at home is a great way to reduce waste and improve lawns, gardens, and flowerbeds? Nutrient-rich compost builds soil and promotes healthy plant growth.

International Compost Awareness Week, May 6 to 12, is the perfect time to wake up your compost after a long winter or to start composting for the first time. The City offers the following to help residents learn about home composting:

  • Learn the basics in one of our two-hour workshops, just $10 for the whole family, at Compost 'S cool, located near John Janzen Nature Centre. To register for workshops, visit edmonton.ca/eReg or call 311.
  • Join us live on the City Facebook page Thursday, May 10 at 12:30 p.m. as we ask our resident compost expert about tips and tricks for starting and maintaining a healthy compost. Viewers are encouraged to ask questions in real time.
  • Meet staff and volunteers for a Compost Coffee Break on Saturday, May 12, at Mandolin Books & Coffee Co. (6419 112 Avenue). Chat about home composting, ask questions, relax and enjoy a discounted coffee.
  • Ask the Compost Doctor! Call 780-496-5526 or email compost@edmonton.ca with your basic or advanced compost questions.
  • Follow @CompostScool on Facebook for pointers, tips, and news about special events. You can also subscribe to Keep Composting, a e-newsletter for composting tips and answers to frequently asked questions.
Visit edmonton.ca/compost for more information.


Thursday, May 3, 2018

Tell One Friend: Where to Get Compost Help

May is peak compost season. Time to fluff the pile and wake up your compost.
Does your neighbour or co-worker need help with their compost?

If the troubles go beyond just greens, browns, water, and air, that's okay. Ask questions and talk through it. What stuff are they composting? How often do they fluff? Does it get water? Does it get air? How do they use the compost?

If you are still stumped, refer them to the Compost Doctor: Markster Composter.
Edmontonians have lots of resources to get composting and keep composting...

Try these tips to connect with friends, family, neighbours, and co-workers.

One Small Ask
"If you ever have a problem, will you ask for help before you give up?”

Shift Social Norms
"Did you know that 30% of Edmonton houses say they compost?
That means that if you're not composting, one of your two neighbours does. Wow."

Create Social Diffusion
"I volunteer as a Master Composter Recycler. I know lots about composting, but I need experience with different compost bins.
If you see a friend with a compost, would you mention my name?”


Thursday, April 12, 2018

Four Key Ingredients for Composting by MCR Mildred T.

These materials are moist, have lots of nitrogen, and less carbon.
  • kitchen scraps
  • fresh plant material
  • peelings
  • anything fresh from a plant
These materials are dry and rich in carbon.
  • fall leaves
  • dried grass
  • saw dust
  • straw
  • shredded paper
Some water is required for food to break down.
  • Sometimes I take the lid off my compost bin before it rains.
  • I add any unused water, when I change my pet's water dish.
  • Whenever I cook pasta, rinse rice or beans, or wash vegetables, I save that water and add it to my compost.
    (Note: I stopped adding salt to my pasta water, to keep it out of my compost.)
Without oxygen, compost breaks down anaerobically. It smells bad and composts slowly. So mix your greens and browns, add water, and then poke some holes in the compost pile. Use something like a long handled weeder or an old broom handle.

This brings air and oxygen into the pile and helps it break down to become a soil amendment.
  • Fluff once a week, from spring to fall.
For More Info & Help
Visit edmonton.ca/compost
Call 780-495-5526
Email compost@edmonton.ca
Go to Compost 'S cool

MCR Mildred T.
Mildred T. became a Master Composter Recycler in 1991. She was part of the first training group of the MCR Program. She was advocate for waste reduction before and ever since. Her motto has been "think globally, act locally."