Compost: not just for worms

In nature, nothing is wasted or thrown away.

While there is nothing natural about urban living, composting our organic waste mimics natural processes carried out by insects, worms and micro-organisms to decompose dead plants and return valuable nutrients back to the earth. Importantly for how we live now, composting also reduces waste sent to landfills, methane greenhouse gas emissions and the need for synthetic chemical fertilizers. Fully composted organic waste is a rich, natural fertilizer that helps create beautiful gardens.

If you live in Montreal, you might have heard the recent announcement that by 2016 we’ll have four City-run composting facilities. That’s great and timely news. composting-533x181In Canada, organic waste makes up the largest component of solid household waste, at around 50% (www.crcresearch.org). This means that if the average person composted all of their organic waste, up to half of the garbage that goes into landfills could be diverted.

While we’re not close to 100% participation in composting, some provinces are doing very well. In 2011, an average of 61% of Canadian households composted their kitchen and garden waste. During that year, provincial composting varied widely, from highs of 96% in Prince Edward Island and 94% in Nova Scotia to lows of 43% in Newfoundland and Labrador and 42% in Quebec. Compost of kitchen-yard waste by Province (2011)(Source: Mustapha, Iman. Composting by households in Canada. Statistics Canada. Environment Accounts and Statistics Division, EnviroStats (2011, vol. 7, no. 1)).

At the provincial level in Quebec and other provinces, clearly there’s room for improvement. In the City of Montreal the statistics are equally dismal. Every Montrealer produces approximately 514 kg of organic waste each year or which only 11% is composted. (CBC News)

Part of the problem has been that Montreal lags almost ten years behind other major Canadian cities and sits below the national average when it comes to curbside organic waste collection and composting. For example, Toronto has been collecting organic waste from single-family households since 2005 and expanded its program to apartment buildings and condos in 2008. By 2011 71% of households in Toronto had access to curbside collection, compared with 30% in Montreal. Composting by curbside collection, select canadian cities(Source: Mustapha, Iman. Composting by households in Canada. Statistics Canada. Environment Accounts and Statistics Division, EnviroStats (2011, vol. 7, no. 1)).

While waiting for the City to institute a curbside collection program, some Montrealers pay for weekly pick-up services from organizations such as Compost Montreal. They’ll give you back a portion of the composted soil later in the year from a pile like this: compost montreal pile

(Source: Compost Montreal)

But, given the lack of City services related to composting, you’re not alone if your garbage looks like this when it goes out to the curb: organic waste

(Source: CBC News)

If you have a backyard, you don’t have to wait for 2016 or hire a service. You can start you own backyard composter. Choose an outdoor compost bin and put it in a location that is easily accessible, and has good drainage. It can still be in amongst other plants and bushes, as long as it’s not entirely shaded the whole day.

Composter in the garden - galvanized steel

Composter iavailable from Galerie CO (Source: Garden Trading via Galerie CO)

Collect your organic matter, which includes cut grass, leaves, straw, hair, paper, vegetable and fruit cuttings, egg shells. It does not include fish, meat, bones or dairy products.

compost do-and-dontsDos and don’ts of composting (Source: http://www.stopfoodwaste.ie)

To prevent fruit flies and other pests, it’s a good idea to keep a pile of cut grass, garden clippings or peat moss to sprinkle over top each time you add organic waste.

Depending on the size and style of your composter, you will need to rotate the organic matter. This can be done with a pitch fork or a shovel.

The amount of time it takes your compost pile to produce finished compost will depend on the material you add and the effort you put in. A compost pile that that is turned often and receives a balance between “brown” and “green” waste materials will decompose faster than one that is not maintained or is tilted too heavily in favour of one particular kind of waste material.   compost What goes in the backyard compostGreen vs. brown organic waste (Source: http://www.yellowknife.ca)

So, be patient and be kind to your compost and it will reward you with your very own ‘black gold’.

compost black goldFinished compost (Source: waystogogreen.com)

Try it at home. And if you’re in Montreal, encourage the City to keep its word so we all have access to widespread composting in the next couple of years. Meeting its stated goal of composting 60% of Montreal’s organic waste once the new facilities are up and running would put Montreal back in the pack when it comes to urban composting and is something to be celebrated.

Do you have any composting tips? We’d love to hear about your experiences and how you’ve reduced your own landfill contribution. Leave a comment below, or get in touch with us on Facebook or Twitter @GalerieCO. Keep Calm and Compost

Creative colourful container gardening

It finally feels as though summer has arrived and here in Montreal it’ll be over before you know it. That’s not meant to depress you. The longest day of the year is still two weeks away. It’s just that if you haven’t already planted some flowers on your balcony or in your backyard or started your herb garden for summer recipes, you need to get on it!

Don’t let the search for the perfect planters become a sticking point. Look around the house or check out your local garage sales and flea markets. You can use and re-use just about anything to grow flowers and herbs; often just as is, or tarted up a little with a paint job.

We’ve looked around for some inspiring images of plantings from our neighbourhood and beyond that show what can be done with nothing but a little imagination a few choice plants and perhaps a couple of basic tools.

crate garden

A wine crate garden in Montreal mixes veggies and flowers adding colour to an urban sidewalk. (Source: Galerie CO)

Don’t forget to make sure that there is drainage in your container and pick a vessel that fits not only the size of your space but the size of the plant or plants you want to grow. Mismatched and multiple containers arranged in groups can look great.

container garden (matadornetwork.com)In Toronto, pizza sauce cans have been painted to create a bold and uniform colour scheme. (Source: Madga Wojtyra)

Pot-Bunga-dari-Teko-Recycled-Pot

A quirky and whimsical use of old teapots. (Source: Beautyharmonylife)

apartment-therapy-cinder-blocks

Minimalist and modular cinder blocks. (Source: apartmenttherapy)

container gardeing (containergardening.about.com)

Old Clementine boxes make great kindling, but they also look charming filled with spring flowers, such as pansies. (Source: containergardening.about.com)

larger

Don’t worry about recycling an elegant biscuit tin; transform it instead. (Source: annies-gardens.com)

container williams-sonoma-galvanized-metal-planter-trough-gardenista

A new or vintage galvanized steel container makes a fine planter. (Source: gardenista.com)

Colanders-Upcycled-Planters

A herb garden in colourful colanders. (Source: redesignrevolution)

rainboots

Cheerful hanging gum boots. (Source: rosinahuber)

containter wheelbarrow

A spectacular show in an old wheelbarrow. (Source: hgtv.com)

lets upcycle colourful palette

A brightly painted shipping pallet with plastic cups. (Source: letsupcycle) You could apply the same principle using terra cotta pots or  interesting old cans, such as olive oil containers.

Although you’d be hard pressed to make these at home, we love the planters made from truck tires by Tadé, Pays du Levant, which we carry at Galerie CO. They’re modelled on ancient leather vessels, made strong and durable by the hard wearing nature of the rubber combined with the expertise of the traditional craftsmen who make them. However, they’re made in Syria so we can no longer get them due to the civil war in that country. Once our stock is gone, it’s gone. The loss of life and security in Syria is tragic. We feel the impact directly through the merchants and artisans whose livelihoods have been ruined by the conflict and we wish for a just resolution to the conflict so that all Syrians can begin to rebuild their lives.

recycled-tire-pots

Rubber tires transformed into planters. (Source: inhabitat)

On a lighter note, we’d love to hear from you. What’ the oddest thing you’ve ever used as a planter?

Tell us in a comment below, on our Facebook or Tweet us @GalerieCO

container inspire bohemia

(Source: inspirebohemia.com)

 

Decorating for Easter with natural dyes

Easter is right around the corner. But there’s still time to have some fun in the lead up to next week’s holiday. This weekend, why not try your hand at dyeing some eggs using natural ingredients that you can find around your house?

Easter Egg Tree - Easter crafts and decorations via Remodelista

Source: remodelista.com

Civilizations have used natural dyes dating back to the Neolithic period. The majority are made from common, locally available organic materials. They are vegetable dyes from plant sources such as roots, berries, leaves and wood, which produce pure shades that mellow with age but preserve their true colours.

However, the discovery of man-made synthetic dyes in the mid-19th century triggered a decline in the market for natural dyes. The new chemical dyes could be produced in large quantities and introduced vibrant colours such as bright purple, magenta and fuishia. They quickly superseded natural dyes for the commercial textile production enabled by the industrial revolution. Unlike natural dyes, however, chemical dyes tend to fade with age rather than mellow naturally. 

Fast forward to the present day; the market for natural dyes is experiencing resurgence with consumers becoming more concerned about the health effects and environmental impacts of chemical dyes.

Easter, vibrant naturally dyed eggs. Source: kitchn.com

Source: kitchn.com

We’re happy to jump on this bandwagon and with Easter approaching we’ve pulled together some “recipes” for natural dyes that you can use to decorate your eggs, which can then be used to decorate your home. Continue reading