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Fall Garden Cleaning: A Great Time To Make Compost

Time's Up
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With the fall garden clean up come piles of yard waste generated from dead-heading, weeding, mowing and moving plants. Tossing all of that organic matter doesn’t make sense, especially when it can be turned into riches for the garden – compost.

The basics of composting are fairly simple. The pile has to be large enough to sustain itself, the mixture of organic matter needs to be right, and the microbes need water and air.     

A compost pile needs a lot of space. The pile should be at least 3 feet wide, 3 feet long and 3 feet tall. It helps to build some type of structure to hold the compost – a wire cage, three-sided wooden bins, or a store bought tumbler.  You’ll need to be able to add stuff to the pile, turn or aerate the pile and sift the good humus out of the pile so be sure the space you choose is easily accessible.

The right compost mixture is made up of half green organic material and half brown. Green organics include kitchen waste (not meat or processed foods), grass clippings, green plant material and manure. Brown organics are dried leaves and dried garden waste.

Turning or poking holes in the pile adds air which helps the plant material to breakdown. Store bought tumblers are available at most garden stores to make the job easier. Turning the compost at least once a month is necessary for good aerobic compost.

The best way to start is to layer the pile. Make a three or four inch layer of chopped or shredded brown garden waste covered with a layer of green kitchen scraps. Layer upon layer so when the pile is turned or aerated both ingredients mix and microbes can do their stuff. 

Another important ingredient is moisture. If the pile is too dry, microbes can’t rot the pile. If it’s too wet, there isn’t enough air to keep the little critters alive. Keep it damp but not wet so the microbes will thrive.

As more and more layers are added, it often helps to build a second bin to make the turning easier. The original pile can be flipped into the second bin. After a few weeks of adding to the flipped pile it can be turned back into the original bin.   

Harvest the riches for the garden after a couple of months. You’re veggies and plants will thank you when it’s time to plant next spring.      

Tom has been offering garden advice on KUNC for almost two decades. During that time he has been the wholesale sales manager at Ft. Collins Nursery, Inc. Since January of 2005 he has been the owner and operator of Throgmorton Plant Management, LLC., a landscape installation and maintenance company as well as a horticultural consulting firm. He lives in northern Ft. Collins with his wife and two kids.
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