Balancing and designating your fall compost piles

Designate a fall leaves compost pile separate from your every day one. Stock photo.

REGION – Effective composting is about maintaining balance: two-thirds carbon or brown matter and one-third nitrogen or green matter. As the leaves continue to fall, the temptation is to add them to the compost pile, but be mindful about maintaining your balance. A superior method of dealing with your fall leaves is to have dedicated fall compost piles.

Start with a 4-foot circumference, culminating in a 3-foot pile with an even layer of soil at every foot. Aim to keep the pile damp. If you reached in and grabbed a handful, you should be able to squeeze a little fluid out. Apply plastic to the top of the pile while still being mindful to maintain its fluffy quality so air can circulate and decompose your pile. Full decomposition should take four to six months. This final material will be airy dark organic soil amendment or conditioner that is low in nutrients.

While pulling your spent vegetable plants from the garden, do not add the root balls to your compost pile. Breaking down the larger plants into smaller pieces will take less time to decompose. Again, in your mixed compost pile, you’re aiming for a moist mixture. Providing walls and a tarp on top will help to keep the heat in and the extra moisture out.

Fall is the perfect time to clean out the ash from your wood burning stove and/or chimney. Ashes from the stove are great additives for your compost pile; however, the chimney sweepings are not. By sprinkling in the ashes over the course of the winter, it will help keep the mixture aerated.

Animal manures (chicken, pig, cow, rabbit, goat etc.) are excellent for contributing back to depleting soil. Adding animal manure to compost piles or directly to garden beds gives a four to six month window for ammonia in the manure to evaporate. Leaving behind the nutrients without the deprecating effects of ammonia.

In the spring, you would add the airy dark organic compost from your leaf compost piles to rejuvenate the soil and provide your family with more nutrient rich food. This process will enable you to rotate crops less frequently and reuse gardening areas for longer periods of time.

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