Composting: From trash to treasure • Stephanie Hudak, Gardening columnist
Keep those leaves that are falling! Don’t let them go–unless it is to me or my good friend, Jeff Johnson. You can count on seeing both of us picking up all the leaves we can find this fall, and here is why.
I invited my Jeff to join me for a cup of coffee at Perk Avenue so he could tell me what he knew about composting. Jeff, a Master Gardener and master composter, had so much to tell me that I’m not sure I can fit it all into this column space. But, oh my goodness, I left there with an armful of literature, lots of inspiration and I want to share it all with you.
Backyard composting is a win-win situation. Years ago everyone who grew something used natural materials to make fertilizer. Then in the 1800s chemical fertilizers were developed; but now we are coming back around to using what Mother Nature has available. The waste stream out of your home can lessen by as much as 35 percent just by composting kitchen and yard waste; and you end up with a nutrient rich fertilizer that improves soil aeration and provides drainage.
I know, you’re saying, “I don’t have time, space or material to do a compost pile.” Even a New York apartment dweller can have a compost bin so think positive. The easiest method is a “dump and run” process. Find a spot, pile on the yard and kitchen waste and wait for it to happen. But a 3x3x3-foot cube is the ideal for creating compost. Go online to www.caes.uga.edu/Publications/pubDetail.cfm?pk_id=6406&pg=al&ak=C where you can find lots of different designs for compost bins and lots of information about how to get started. Here are two books that Jeff shared that can also help you. "Home Composting Made Easy" by Forrest McDowell and "The Rodale Book of Composting." I’ve already ordered both. The first book is the ABCs of composting and the Rodale book will give you the history/chemistry aspect.
Probably the most important things to know about composting is that you need brown stuff (carbon) and green stuff (nitrogen), along with moisture and aeration. The brown stuff will be literally falling all around you shortly–leaves. And unless you are eating all your meals at McDonalds, you will have some of the green stuff–kitchen waste. If Mother Nature doesn’t give you rain, sprinkle the bin with water and once a week give the whole thing a good turn with a pitch fork for that aeration. How much easier can it get? Free fertilizer, and you’ve saved space at the local dump.
I could give you lots of information here about how to get started but it really all depends on your available space and allotted time. So what I will give you is Jeff’s e-mail address (yes, he did agree to this). Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and he said that he would be more than glad to help you. To see examples of the different types of compost bins you can use, stop by the Morgan County Extension Office. At the back of the building there are bins that are actively being used by the Master Gardeners.
So, after you are done running like a 9-year-old through that big pile of leaves you’ve raked up (shredding does help the composting process), pile them up in a corner of your yard and get started making compost. Your garden will thank you profusely next spring with a riot of colorful flowers. And, if you decide not to do a compost pile, Jeff and I will thank you profusely for all those leaves you gathered. But remember Jeff, ladies first.
Be sure to check out my blog to follow the progress on the city container winter color: www.madisoncontainers.blogspot.com
Printed in the November 8, 2012 edition