If your Day of the Dead has turned into a month-long marathon of cleanup, you’re ripe for one of the best ways to recycle your plants into amendment for your soil. Through the miracle of rot, decaying plants are converted to organic matter that holds water and nutrients for roots to take up.
Grab a rake and pull up those plants; November is the month to celebrate composting. Here are few quick and easy tips for getting started:
Pick a sunny, out of the way area at least four-feet by four-feet wide. If your Home Owner’s Association objects to something decomposing in your yard, use a composting bin to keep things tidy. Choose one that is well ventilated and allows easy access to the compost for turning.
Gather up green and brown plant material, with twice as much brown as green. Fresh, green plant parts provide nitrogen to the pile; dry brown material supplies carbon. Microorganisms need both to turn your garden waste into soil gold.
Avoid resinous wood such as junipers, pine, or spruce; resin keeps the plants from decomposing, increasing the time needed for composting. Some deciduous tree leaves also take longer, so gardeners wanting a quick batch of compost should avoid oak or cottonwood in their piles.
Weeds with seeds and diseased plants should be disposed of in another way; most backyard compost piles don’t get hot enough to kill the seeds or disease. If you want to compost weeds, clip the seed heads off before tossing the plant on the pile.
Kitchen scraps are good additions to the compost, but not meat, bones, grease, eggs and dairy products that attract animals and insects. Dog, cat, and human manures should never be added to compost.
For faster composting, chop large material into small chunks before mixing them into the pile. Leave tree leaves whole so they don’t compact down and smother the pile.
Layer brown and green material into a pile, adding water with each layer until the pile feels damp, like a sponge. If the pile is soggy to soaking, add more material in until it dries a little.
There’s no need for soil or compost starter to be added to the pile; microorganisms that break down materials are on the surface of most plant material. Compost should heat up within a week and be very warm to the touch.
Once it begins to cool, turn it from the outside in and sprinkle with more water to recharge the pile. Keep turning until it no longer heats up, looks like crumbled humus and has an earthy smell. Help your compost stay moist in winter by placing a burlap blanket or other breathable material over it. If your compost cools in the frigid months, don’t worry, once the temperatures warm up in spring your compost, turn your pile, add a little water and the pile will heat up again.
This post was previously published in the Longmont Ledger.
- How to Build A Compost Pile (backyardgardeningtips.com)