Gardening Vivian | 29 Aug 2010 11:00 pm

Home Composting – Taking Charge of the Fall Bounty

In the midst of fall harvest and cleanup, even the organic gardener can find him or her self neglecting the compost pile. However, this is one of the great seasons to compost with a rich bounty of materials available. In fact, once the last of the finished compost is distributed around the garden, there is now both need and space for making compost once again.

Garden beds should be prepared for the spring to come. One of the first things to do is finish the harvest. Anything the frost has hit goes into the pile, bean plants, potato tops, annual flowers, perennial die back, tomato plants and so on. Cut corn stalks into about six inch lengths, preferably before uprooting them. It is is just easier to use a pair of cutters on them while they are still standing.

Gladioli and canna lily add a lot to a pile of compost. These too need to be cut up into six inch lengths prior to going in the pile. It makes the process faster but more to the point, it makes turning the compost pile a lot easier on the back. Make sure to save the corms for next season’s planting.

While stripping down the beds, do not forget all those weeds that were left in the busy last days of summer and the first of autumn because it was too late to hurt the garden anyway. Some call them weeds, we call them compost. Into the compost bin they go. They will add an amazing amount of micro nutrients to the mix.

By this time, one of the bins likely looks full or close to it. However, this is the green or nitrogen side side of composting. There is still the need for a good selection of brown matter to balance things off and get the compost pile cooking.

Autumn’s great contribution to the brown side of things is falling leaves. These are nutritional power houses created when the roots of the trees have reached deep into the earth to mine all sorts of minerals and bring them to the surface. Unfortunately, autumn is also the season for rains which wash away some of those nutrients if the leaves are down for too long so get out with a rake right away.

You might also want to drive around on garbage pick up day and look for helpful neighbours that have raked their own leaves and bagged them at the roadside for you. A few of these thrown in the trunk of the car can really build a pile quickly. Just put a layer on the bottom of the bin, add a layer of green material then a layer of brown and so on. The first turning will mix the materials well.

There is another sort of bounty from the fall composting station. A freshly turned pile in the morning cool will often give off a layer of steam as the pile works. Something profound seems to happen in watching it as you realize that the ages old system of composting is happening before your eyes with all of the promise of spring behind it.

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