Backyard Composting

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012 by Jenny Watts
    • Japanese maples and snowball bushes are some of the most colorful shrubs in the fall. Plant them now and give them a head start on spring.
    • Check houseplants for insects. Spray leaves with insecticidal soap and wipe them off to leave them clean and insect-free.
    • King Alfred daffodils, those big, showy, golden, trumpet-flowered daffodils, can be planted now from bulbs for glorious spring flowers.
    • Broadcast wildflower seeds and annual ryegrass on hillsides to stop erosion and give you lots of flowers next spring.
    • Transplant shrubs that need to be moved this month. It’s also a good time to transplant natives.

Backyard Composting

Composting is a process that takes place naturally on the forest floor, in your own backyard, or in your refrigerator. When you walk through a lush forest, stop and examine the forest floor. You’ll see that the top layers are recognizable as leaves, twigs and needles. But below these are last season’s leaves, which have been transformed into rich crumbly soil. This is the process of decomposition.

When we pile up vegetation so that it can decompose all in one spot, we call it composting. Leaves, grass, manures, food scraps, paper towels and other organic materials are digested by worms, insects and bacteria to create rich compost. All they need is air, water and plant materials to do their work. The end product is a natural fertilizer which will make your plants lush and healthy.

With cool autumn days and leaves filling your yard, it’s a perfect time to begin composting. Composting provides a useful and environmentally conscious alternative to bagging up your leaves and sending them away as waste.

There are as many different ways to build a compost pile as there are gardeners. And they all make usable, soil-enriching compost.

You can compost in any kind of a bin, which keeps things neat and tidy, or you can make a heap directly on the ground. Either way, the pile will start shrinking immediately, and will be about half its original size a week after you build it.

Leaves, grass, weeds, herbs and flowers are all ideal for your compost bin and will break down rapidly. Fruit and vegetable food scraps are also ideal. Leftovers from canning or making fresh juice are a great addition to your pile.

A good compost pile contains a balance between green materials and brown ones. The green ones provide nitrogen and heat up the pile, while the brown ones provide necessary carbon. Green materials include fresh plant material, grass clippings and food scraps. The browns include dry leaves and straw or wood shavings. Using up to one-half green material and the rest brown material will create a good hot pile that will decompose quickly.

You can also just make a pile out of the leaves you rake off the lawn. Your leaf pile should be four to 10 feet around and three to five feet high. A correct pile size ensures proper temperature and air flow needed for composting. Keep your pile moist and by next spring you should have some dark and crumbly, earthy-smelling compost to dig into your soil.

Composting is Nature’s way of recycling. No matter what you do, you can’t stop compost from happening.