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Compost Maintenance

Tricks for decomposing garden debris

Recently, a friend asked me what the proper way to compost was. I chuckled, because composting can be as simple or as elaborate as you want it to be — a pile of kitchen scraps or truckloads of leaves and organic matter. The principles of composting are basic, but with a little effort on your part, you can quickly reap the benefits — which include improvement in soil fertility and healthy root development in plants — of your compost.

Nearly anything organic can be composted — eggshells, banana peels, grass clippings, garden debris, and, especially this time of year, leaves. If you want more than just a pile of decomposing debris, many types of composting bins are available on the market, or you can easily build a bin using simple materials from the hardware store. 

You can be as active with your compost as you like. The simple way consists of compiling various debris in a pile and letting it decompose naturally. After a year or two, you can begin using the compost that is developing on the bottom of your pile.

Using a more hands-on approach, compost can be ready in just a few weeks’ time. Layering and constantly adding new material to the pile will keep the process going. Regularly turning the pile will help to aerate it for more even decomposition.

With the accumulation of fall leaves, it is important to keep in mind that the decomposition of leaves can vary depending on the type of tree they fall from. Oaks, beech, birch, hornbeam, chestnut, magnolia, and holly tree leaves can be difficult to decompose, while others such as ash, cherry, elm, linden, maple, poplar, and willow leaves tend to break down more easily.

Shredding leaves can break them down more quickly, giving the decomposition process a jumpstart. Lawn mowers are the easiest and quickest way to shred the leaves, and will also mix in grass clippings, which are high in nitrogen, a great component for decomposition.

Start piling on the organic matter and let nature do the work — well, most of it.

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