Fall is an excellent time to start a compost pile with all of the leaves falling, and if you develop compost now, you will have a rich source of organic material for your garden and flowerbeds in spring. Getting started with compost is fairly simple if you keep in mind the following…
- Size Matters
Smaller particles break down faster than larger chunks. Shredding or mulching garden wastes will help speed up the process and develop usable compost faster. Chop up larger pieces of household materials before adding them to your compost pile to speed up their decomposition.
- Take a Turn for the Better
Turning helps aerate the pile and shifts outer parts closer to the center where they can heat and decompose more effectively. A well-mixed pile will also have better consistency and more evenly distributed nutrients. Use a pitchfork, spade or rake to gently turn your pile periodically, such as once every 1-2 weeks or whenever you add a large amount of new material to the pile.
- Know What to Compost
Materials that can be composted are sod, grass clippings, leaves, hay, straw, manure, chopped corncobs, corn stalks, sawdust, shredded newspaper, wood ashes, hedge clippings and many kinds of plant refuse from the garden. Some household waste, such as coffee grounds, banana peels, eggshells and vegetable peelings are also ideal for a compost pile and will reduce the trash you accumulate.
- Avoid Unwanted Materials
Materials to avoid composting are large amounts of weeds, grease, fat, meat scraps and bones, cheese, coal ashes, diseased plants, cut weeds and charcoal. These materials do not decompose readily and can create poor quality compost. For example, meat, grease or dairy products in your compost will begin to smell strongly, which could attract rats, raccoons or other unwanted visitors. Diseased plants or weeds can survive in a compost pile, contaminating your garden when you add the compost to the soil in spring.
- Cover as Needed
Covering your compost pile with a tarp or large piece of carpet can help preserve the heat and moisture essential to promote appropriate decomposition. The cover can also keep the pile from freezing or getting too wet in winter conditions, and it can easily be removed to add new material or turn the pile as needed.
Before you toss out your next bag of trash, check for compost material and start your pile today! Your garden will thank you tomorrow.