Autumn has arrived in Charlotte with plenty of wind and rain, and leaves have been turning and dropping all over the city. The leaves made a lovely show of color a few weeks ago, and now they can be used to make excellent compost.
Compost piles are built using water, green matter and brown matter. Most green plant waste and kitchen vegetable scraps contribute nitrogen and moisture to your compost bin. Brown matter consists of leaves and other brown, dry waste from the garden. Newspapers are also brown matter. (See the attached video for more information about green and brown matter.)
A compost pile can be as simple as layering green and brown matter and leaving the pile alone for a year or so. However, if you have a small garden or prefer an orderly looking compost pile, compost bins can be purchase at many home and garden stores. One option is to simply purchase a large plastic trash can, cut out the bottom so the compost is directly on the ground, layer with compost materials, add organic fertilizer every few layers and water thoroughly until water is running out of the bottom of the pile. If you want to place the lid on the container, punch several large holes to allow rain to go into the compost bin and retain moisture.
When built correctly, a compost pile can basically take care of itself. You can turn it with a pitchfork or shovel from time to time if you want to speed the process up, but eventually nature takes care of the composting. Worms and small bugs are quick to move into a healthy compost bin because you have created a healthy environment for them to live, eat, grow and procreate. If you have created a pile of brown mulch and neglected it for a year or so, you’ve seen this in action. When you finally returned to the mulch, you probably found more broken down humus than mulch. The humus can then be used to enrich and fertilize your garden.
The basic recipe to make a compost pile is as follows:
- If you wish to set up a compost container, put the container where it will get some sunshine and rain.
- Place a layer of newspapers about 1/4 inch deep or so on the bottom.
- If you have twigs or bark, add the layer at the bottom.
- Add a layer of leaves or brown matter about 3 to 6 inches deep
- Add a layer of green matter (kitchen waste, food scraps, plant material from your garden)
- Sprinkle some organic fertilizer or add organic compost starter
- Repeat steps 4 to 7 until the compost bin is complete
The following ingredients make excellent compost materials:
- Brown matter: leaves, small twigs, newspaper, bark, coffee grinds, tea leaves or bags
- Green matter: kitchen waste (NOT meat, fat or bread), plant trimmings or green waste from your yard
- Other: Crushed eggshells are also great and add calcium to your pile
If you cannot take advantage of the free compost material, be sure to bag the leaves up. The leaves will be taken to be composted and made available to gardeners in Charlotte through Compost Central.
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