Nature Is Calling Us To Compost!
I'm sure you've heard the chants "leave the leaves," "compost happens," or "let it rot" plenty of times, especially in the autumn. Now is the time to take advantage of how nature is assisting us with a windfall of leaves. How much easier can it be to start composting? I've previously admitted unabashedly that I am lazy when it comes to composting. So take it from me - composting can be a no-brainer. It doesn't have to be time and space consuming or complicated and expensive. If you are willing to wait longer for the compost to break down, you don't even need a compost bin.
What's the big deal about compost? It increases the water-holding capacity of soil and provides a buffet of plant nutrients and beneficial microbes. Healthy root development is stimulated and heavy clay soil will compact less with compost added. With just a little help from us and the assistance of nature, compost recycles the earth's material and decreases our volume of waste. I found it to be intriguing, once the process started, to watch my kitchen scraps "disappear."
So what are you waiting for? Just follow these simple steps:
- Pick the sunniest location possible.
- If you are going to include kitchen scraps and the pile is going to be loose or just held together with chicken wire, it should be fenced off due to our friendly foothill scavengers.
- Now just get some good old exercise and rake your leaves into as big a pile as you can create. Try to make it at least 3 feet square in order for the microorganisms to heat up enough to break the material down. If you don't have that many leaves, just add other materials to the pile.
- The bigger the leaves, the longer they take to break down. Make sure large leaves aren't becoming so compacted that they become mushy. You can chop the leaves with a shovel, by mowing over them or using a weed eater in the pile.
There are 2 directions you can go from here. In both cases, you can continue to add to the pile until it gets to be the size you desire. (I still attempt 3' x 3' but sometimes it isn't that big; a smaller pile simply composts more slowly.)
- Let it rot all by itself. Turn the pile over occasionally to give it the air (oxygen) needed. Air can't circulate in a pile that's too dense or wet, so materials won't decompose. If we go through a long dry spell, check to see if it is too dry. Try to keep it close to the consistency of a damp sponge. Insert the hose into the center of the pile, not just on top. It's a simple as that - the only thing needed now is patience!
- Speed up the process by adding "browns" and "greens" (read on for descriptions). Alternate them in layers like a cake and try to balance it out so there are equal volumes of each. Turn the pile and add water as needed. Here are some examples of green and brown materials that you probably have easy access to:
- Green (nitrogen-containing) material: grass and shrub clippings (not too thick), wilted flowers, raw fruit and vegetable trimmings, hair, coffee grounds and tea bags.
- Brown (carbon-containing) materials: pine needles, dried leaves, straw, sawdust, crushed egg shells, shredded paper and coffee filters.
- Do not compost: dairy or greasy foods, dirt, ashes, fish, animal products and diseased plants.
I've composted both ways. The process was very slow when I just let leaves rot without adding other browns and greens. But it worked! In about a year, you'll have leaf compost.
When I did it by adding greens and browns, it was faster but I still didn't tend to it often so it still took a while. There is nothing wrong with being a lazy composter if you are willing to wait for the "black gold" this can create. I can always find better things to do...
So there you have it. Successful composing does not have to be complex. Let nature do it's magic of chemistry, smell the good stuff, and give yourself a pat on the back when you harvest it!
Kathy Nunes loves being a "lazy" composter; by the way, that process is called cold composting and it works!