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Fall is a good time to start a compost pile

By Mary Beth Breckenridge Published: October 7, 2013

Thinking of starting a compost pile? Fall’s a great time.

That’s because the “brown” material that makes up the bulk of a good compost pile is abundant this time of year.

A compost piles performs best if it has about three times as much carbon-rich brown material as nitrogen-rich green material.

Brown material includes dead leaves, straw, coffee filters, tea bags, corn cobs, sawdust, newspaper, wood ashes, paper towels and napkins, dryer lint and cardboard egg cartons.

Green material includes fresh grass clippings and plant trimmings, kitchen scraps (no meat), tea leaves, coffee grounds, manure and organic packing materials, such as cornstarch peanuts.

Here are some composting tips from Gail Loos, inventor of the Green Cycler, a new breed of kitchen appliance that easily shreds kitchen scraps:

  • Add all your annuals’ skeletons, but separate root balls and heavy stems.
  • Add grass clippings in thin layers to prevent matting.
  • Avoid putting meat or fatty foods in your pile – these can be odiferous and attract vermin.
  • Moisten compost. It shouldn’t be dry; it should be moist but not saturated.
  • Moisten materials as they are added
  • Keep a stash of straw, clean kitty litter, dry leaves, or peat moss near your compost pile and sprinkle a little on the top of the pile each time you add to the pile to keep the carbon/nitrogen ratio in balance.
  • Shredded materials compost rapidly. The more surface area for microbes to attack, the sooner you'll have usable compost. You can chop your materials with a machete or shovel, run them through a shredding machine, or run over them with your lawn mower.
  • Keep your compost aerated by turning it with a shovel or pitchfork to mix it up once a week or every few weeks.
  • Cover your compost pile with a tarp or plastic sheeting to keep it warm and from getting soggy with rain, and to keep pests out.
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