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Published: Wednesday, 12/5/2012

A good time to start a late-season compost pile

BY KELLY HEIDBREDER
IN THE GARDEN

Are you ready to make some compost? If you have saved a few bags of grass clippings and still have some leaves flying around the yard, you have the basic building blocks for homemade compost.

Grass clippings are a good source of nitrogen. Michigan State University scientists say you should mulch them back into your lawn to keep it well-fed. But if you would rather bag them, then you might as well get some use out of it.

Grass isn't the only ingredient for compost. Heavy concentration of composting nigrogen can create a smelly pile in your back yard, rather than an undetectable pile of compost. Combined with other elements that are heavy in carbon will level out the nitrogen. Dried leaves, straw, and shredded newsprint are good carbon materials.

Kitchen scraps such as egg shells, coffee grounds, apple cores, and other vegetable waste are a few ingredients that can be tossed together to create black gold.

Stir it up

Fill a heavy black garbage bag half way with grass, another third with leaves or carbon materials, one shovel full of soil from the garden, and a cap full of slow release fertilizer.

Toss in about four cups of water then tie the bag off. Poke a few small holes in the bag for air circulation. Roll it around the yard a few times to stir it up, then put it in a concealed place in your yard. It is good if this location is sunny. The heat will penetrate the bag and warm the ingredients inside. This helps the composting process.

Leave it out

There are things that should not go into the compost pile. Anything that is diseased or has been spreading spots to other plants around the yard should be tossed out.

Weeds that have started to go to seed should also be tossed into the trash. Large sticks and big chunks of bark need to be shredded or burned instead of landing in the compost pile because they take too long to break down. And the biggest compost no-no is adding food scraps with meat and bones. Even cheese and foods with oils will attract rodents.

Commence composting

Some people start one pile in the winter and spring and let it cook. Winter and spring yard waste can be tossed on a compost pile, turned a few times, and sprinkled with water throughout the summer and become dark brown compost by fall.

Start another pile in the early summer to be used the following early spring. You can also start a few smaller compost piles. These can easily be hidden behind some of the big shrubs in your landscape.

Dig a hole in an area that won't damage any roots and start filling it half way with grass, the other half with leaves, sprinkle on a few shakes of slow release fertilizer, and give it a toss. Add to the hidden piles as you do some of your yard chores. And as they age, you will have a nice pile of gourmet food for those plants and they will be in convenient piles hidden around the yard.

Contact Kelly Heidbreder at getgrowing@gmail.com.



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