Spoils of Soil

Soil is an amazingly complex thing. Scoop up just a handful of it and (ideally) you’ll be holding a combination of silt, sand, clay, organic matter, as well as countless micro organisms in the form of bacteria and fungi.

Toronto’s dirt is top-notch, containing 1/3 of Canada’s Class 1 soil, thanks to the ancient lake basin we now call home. So if you think about it, there are loads of superstar soil hiding right below the pavement under our feet!


After taking a workshop on soil, I was eager to build my own backyard compost. (Yes, Toronto’s soil is really good, but I wanted to make it even better.) With a little help from gardening blogs, I realized how easy it was to make one.

My idyllic vision of a compost had always been a wooden slat box, and thanks to a discarded wooden slat futon sitting on the side of the road, I was able to make it a reality. All of the pieces were there; they just had to be reworked a little. The only thing I had to purchase from the hardware store was the wire mesh to line it.

As you can see from the photos below, my compost is without a side door. That’s on the list of things to do, but not urgent, as my compost heap is still quite small.

compost DIY homemade

Composting is all about layering, plain and simple. I started with a base of shredded newspaper and from there it’s been a pattern of  layering mulch, manure, kitchen waste and black earth as I go. There aren’t any rules, really. The layers are just there to encourage bacteria formation and keep air flowing.

So far, the raccoons and other night scavengers haven’t shown any interest in my little compost heap, which is a huge relief! The reason being that the kitchen scraps I’ve been feeding it are strictly plant based.

I guess I’ll have to wait until next summer to put my composting efforts to the test. In the mean time, I’ll continue to gaze at roadside, land-fill-destined futons, with the knowledge that each one of them has the potential to be a stylish, free compost bin.

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My name is Ashley Barron and I'm a Toronto based illustrator. This is my online show & tell of new artwork and anything else I find inspiring. Thanks for taking a look :)

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