Tuesday, October 24th, 2006...2:33 pm

Would you throw out your old gold?

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You read this correctly. Would you throw out your old gold?  I doubt that there is anyone rich enough to do that. And no one would be rich if he or she threw out gold.

So why would anyone throw out their fallen leaves? ( plus most of their garbage) This was a question going through my head as I was raking my leaves.  Because that is what so many of my neighbors, and I am sure your neighbors, do.  Some not only throw the fallen leaves out, or give it to their trash or city collectors, they pay to throw it out. They BUY bags to stuff the leaves in so the city can collect them easier. Now they have the extra work of stuffing leaves into bags. Unbelievable!!!!   First people are throwing out a valuable resource; going to the extra work of bagging the leaves and then paying to have this resource taken from them. Is this crazy or what?

If you are guilty of getting rid of your leaves and not saving them, you are  throwing out black gold. Now I am not talking about oil- the leaves will take millennia to become oil. But another kind of black gold- the best topsoil money can buy:  black and loamy soil with all the nutrients your plants can ever dream of getting. Probably that plant in Little Shop of Horrors was saying “feed me” and eating people because it couldn’t get any great soil; because the people in his “show shop” threw out their leaves and green stuff instead of putting these things into a compost pile to get the soil that poor hungry plant wanted.

The reasons for composting, besides saving money, are that it improves soil structure, aeration and fertility; it adds major and trace amounts of essential nutrients to the soil; it provides an energy source for beneficial microorganisms and earthworms as well as stimulating biological activity in the soil; it acts as a mulch and helps moderate soil temperature while helping to decrease evaporation as well as increasing the water–holding capacity of the soil which acts as drought protection while making the soil darker for more heat absorbtion from the sun to extend the growing season in the spring and fall. That’s a lot of benefits from a compost pile.

This fall, while raking leaves, is a great time to start a new compost pile or to add a second one on your property.  You say you don’t know how?   It isn’t difficult. Nature learned how to do it when the earth was forming. It gave humans wonderful soil for us to grow great, delicious, nutritious vegetables and beautiful flowers and plants. And if we don’t help Mother Nature, we are taking but not giving back.

So to start: Find a place on your property where you don’t want the compost site to be seen or show it off, as you will. You can buy a compost bin- there are many on the market: both the holding bin type or the turning bin type- or you can build one yourself- they are easy enough to make.  Or you can just make a pile.

Then start putting all the leaves you have raked into the bin or pile.  You can put other brown components in, but we are starting off easy and if you want to know some other brown elements, contact me.  Don’t put sticks in the pile. The leaves are the brown element or the carbon additions of a compost pile.

Now the compost pile needs green stuff or the nitrogen elements. You strive to have equal parts of green and brown- equal by weight not volume. These can be clippings from your lawn, vegetable and fruits wastes, they may have rotted or you might have their peelings, coffee grinds (Starbucks will give you their grinds free to add to your compost pile, just ask), and poultry or horse manure if you are lucky to have a farm near you.

Some things you can add to the compost bin are: black and white newspaper – NOT colored print, eggshells, cornmeal, vacuum bag wastes, old potting soil or mix, stale foods like cereals, hair, dead insects, kitchen scraps, paper and cardboard, bird cage stuff, peanut shells, food waste, pine needles, tobacco, fish scraps- push fish scraps deep down into the pile so animals don’t go after the fish.

Then wait a few weeks to 2 years for your compost pile to yield the best soil you can imagine. (I didn’t say to sit back and wait, because you are constantly adding to this compost pile.) The time difference depends on a few things.

1.)The smaller the pieces that are put into the compost, the faster it will decompose. A friend bought a blender at a garage sale and uses it only to puree her garbage (with a little water if needed) and pours it on her compost pile.

2.)The temperature is important. The lower the temperature the slower the material will decompose. The ideal temperature is between 70 degrees and 140 degrees.

3.) Oxygen is needed, so it is beneficial to turn the composting material. (The leaves and garbage that goes into a dump may never decompose because there is no oxygen deep down. Another reason you should be a responsible composting person.

4.) Water is needed: for rapid composting a moisture content of 50-60%- as moist as a wrung out sponge- is best.   A cover or a tarp helps so that the compost doesn’t get too wet or dry.

If you have everything just right you don’t have to add anything else.

Of course, there are things you Don’t want to add: No meat or bones, most dairy products, no grease, oil or fats, no human waste nor cat or dog feces, no used kitty litter, no non-organics, no treated wood, no roots or stems of hard to kill or noxious weeds, and don’t add some diseased   plants esp. tomatoes.

So let’s hear a big round of applause for composting people. I know Martha Stewart is a composter. Are YOU?

Write to let me know if you are starting your own compost pile or if you have any questions about composting. You should have no bad smells from any compost site that is composting correctly. If you do have concerns, contact me and we will discuss what to do. And when you use your compost, let me know if your tomatoes, or whatever, are the best most delicious you have ever tasted from your garden. Then go out to treat yourself to something you really like to do with the savings you have from not having to buy more topsoil.

 

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