Project 46: Get yourself some coffee grounds and give your compost pile a boost

My brother shared a TED talk with me a few months back. He said I was the only one he knew who might actually use the information. Well I don’t know if I am the only one, but I was excited about the talk on composting. And thank you, I am trying out the suggestions.

I was intrigued by the title: “Everything you know about composting is wrong: Mike McGrath at TEDx Phoenixville” Just today, I was having a conversation about the conventional recommendations of what you can put into a compost pile. The greens and browns, the carbon, the nitrogen and at what ratio, what kind of kitchen waste –  and no one could really remember. Mike McGrath suggests that we stop putting kitchen waste into the compost pile at all.

Here is what you need to know about composting according to Mike McGrath

  • Save all the leaves you can. Shred them if possible. He suggests using a leaf blower on the vacuum setting.
  • Just compost leaves. The only additional material to add to a compost pile is coffee grounds. Coffee grounds are full of nitrogen and get the compost cooking quickly,  and they are also rich in phosphorus, calcium and potassium. 
  • Keep the kitchen garbage out of the compost pile. Save the kitchen scraps for the red worms and use the process of vermicomposting. 
  • Only the leaves break down into useable compost when the leaves and kitchen waste are mixed together. 
  • Upon meeting gardeners from Europe, a French gardener was confused by the practice of adding garbage in with the leaves. In France, the entire bedding plant industry relies on leaf mould made from just shredding leaves. No additives. That’s what they grow their bedding plants in.
I have a friend who had her yard cleaned up this spring and ended up with dozens of bags of leaves. She used some to add to her new garden beds and I took as many bags as I could fit in the back of my car to try out the composting suggestions above.
I didn’t have a leaf blower and so I just added a few bags of leaves to one of my almost composters. We do have a mulching lawn mower, but I didn’t bother with the shredding step. It probably would have made things move along more quickly. Then I had to round up some coffee grounds. My favourite coffee place, Roast at the Kingsland Market was more than happy to help me out. In fact they had a few bins going for other gardeners who were looking for spent coffee grounds as well. Now I have the best smelling compost pile around. In fact I find myself craving a cup of coffee when I walk by that composter. I have also asked at a Starbuck and Phil and Sebastian’s. All were willing to give me coffee grounds.

What about that kitchen waste? I got myself a worm composter from Worms at Work in Calgary.  I’ve started feeding them some kitchen waste, but I don’t have enough worms right now to eat all of our garbage. The rest I still put into an outdoor compost pile. I haven’t given that up completely. It does seem to work, but it takes a long time. I have started adding coffee grounds to the kitchen waste compost bin as well. Hopefully that will speed things up there too.

Make your compost at the very least smell better whether it’s leaf only or mixed. Get yourself some free used coffee grounds.

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