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Composting Tips and Things
by John Harmon
September 28, 2003

It's been quite a week with the weather changing radically from beginning to end. The weather guru's claim we will have a dryer than normal fall. We will soon know if they were right since fall is a very short season in the north.

I've been getting a number of questions this year about over wintering geraniums. I've written about various methods of keeping them over the winter before so if you missed that column here's a few internet links to give you even more information and the options available to you for saving that favorite plant for next spring. Take a look at: or or or

Remember that methods that talk about keeping your geranium plant actively growing over the winter will require artificial light this far north.

If you don't have your entry for this year's Titanic Tomato Tournament in yet I have only one thing to say, What are you waiting for? There's $300.00 cash up for grabs provided by The Yukon News for the biggest tomato and $150.00 comprised of a gift certificate for $100.00 from Adorna Flowers and Gifts and $50.00 cash for second place. There's also a respectable $100.00 for third made up of a $50.00 gift certificate from Home Hardware and $50.00 cash. With all the prizes it's worth the time to get your tomato weighed in and it's free to enter! Along with all three top prizes there is also the prize awarded by the Yukon Agriculture Branch for the Ugliest Tomato along with the trophy and there will be free movie passes provided by Landmark Cinemas in Whitehorse all round. This year the deadline for entries is October 15th. In Whitehorse you can enter at Adorna Flowers and Gifts and in Dawson contact Blair Fischer at 993-6780.

With the end of summer behind us and winter rapidly approaching it's a great time to finish up your compost heap. All those plants from the garden and the greenhouse can be composted and be ready to be added to your soil next year. Unlike places down south where the summer is longer and warmer don't expect to get finished compost as quickly as some of the books and magazine articles claim is possible. Unless you are an expert on composting and have exactly the right mix of ingredients it's probably going to take much longer.

I don't make compost anymore. I had piles sitting around here for years that still hadn't finished composting. I'm obviously not and expert and didn't have the right mix of plant material for them to work right. I gave up. Now I take all my plant material in the fall as I close down and clean out greenhouses and till it directly into the gardens and fields. It gets chopped up and the freezing and thawing over the winter breaks it down even more. In the spring I plant a cover crop to till in and provide even more plant material for the soil. I can't really call it soil yet in my fields but every year it gets a little better.

Don't pass up offers of free manure. There are ads in the paper right now for free manure to pick up. You can till fresh or partially composted manure into your soil now and it will be ready to plant in come spring. With some manure, notoriously horse manure, there will be weed seeds but the extra work of controlling the weeds is worth the benefits to your soil and future plants. My garden this spring was a thick carpet of weeds and as they grew they were tilled in along with whatever other plant material I could come up with. Next years garden should be great.

If you are going to make a compost heap it will help to chop everything up as small as possible. A shredder is perfect for the job and you can rent one locally at a reasonable rate. Once it's chopped up as fine as possible you can layer your pile and add whatever ingredients you desire. For more information check out Environment Canada's site at or the Composting Fact Sheets on the Composting Council of Canada's website at Click on the "Composting Fact Sheets" link. All the fact sheets are free to download. There's enough information available to keep you busy reading all winter and make you an expert at composting.

With the forecasted "dryer than normal" fall you might just have enough time to get your composting done before the snow flies.




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