Garden clean-up time has arrived and that means big piles of expired plants, weeds, rinds, seeds and other ingredients that can be combined into a priceless compost pile.
How you handle your materials affects how long it takes them to decompose. Compost made correctly in fall will be ready when the weather warms in late spring.
While leaves make wonderful compost, they compost more slowly and need to weather for a while before they rot. Use chopped leaves as mulch over garden beds for winter. After a few months of exposure to rain, wind, ice or snow, leaves will begin to rot.
Make Compost from Garden Garbage:
- Choose a spot for composting where you plan to make a new bed next year. The soil beneath a compost pile benefits from the activities of the many life forms that live in this special environment, so it’s a good way to start the soil improvement process.
- Pull dead plants from flower and vegetable gardens and cut into pieces less than 6 inches long. This makes it easy for microorganisms to break down plants. Cutting broccoli stems, corn stalks or other hefty items into pieces exposes insect pests that may be hiding in tough plant parts.
- Make a dome-shaped pile with your waste, stopping every 4 inches to drench the pile with water as you build. Continue piling on garden waste as it becomes available. Cover the compost pile with a tarp or black plastic to keep it from drying out.
- Remove the cover after two weeks, and chop through the pile with a hoe to mix the materials and expose dry pockets to moisture.
- Sprinkle a high-nitrogen fertilizer, such as organic lawn fertilizer, compost starter or blood meal, onto the freshly chopped pile. Nitrogen invites microorganisms who work to speed up decomposition.
- Add water, if needed, to keep the heap uniformly moist, and cover it again.
- Remove the cover in spring. Chop through the pile with a hoe to mix materials. Then pile everything back together with a digging fork. Many of the ingredients may still look like they did in the fall, but things will quickly change with the warming weather.
Be patient. The compost you start now will turn into black gold after the onset of spring.