pile of compost is ready to be incorporated into a
new Louisiana iris bed.
I was driving around the neighborhood recently it became
quite apparent to me that a literal gold mine of soil
amendments was being placed at the road side. I suppose
it has always happened but with the advent of paper lawn
refuse bags it is now much more apparent. The scene is
the positive side our Chatham County, Ga., Public Works
composts this waste and gives it back to the public;
does your county? Those dozen or so bags of leaves at
the street side have the potential of helping you start
a compost pile that will pave the way to a great new
azalea bed, cottage garden or tropical paradise.
children grew up learning the phrase, "the key to
the green thumb is how brown it gets first, in soil
preparation." Compost, that dark crumbly organic
material, is the key ingredient to the garden recipe.
Incorporating organic matter helps loosen tight heavy
soils so they will drain or improve sandy soilís
ability to hold water and nutrients. You win no matter
your soil type.
remember well a Master Gardener friend in Ocean Springs,
Miss., who took this to heart. The last time I was at
his home I was as impressed by his compost bin as I was
by his glorious gingers and firespikes blooming. This
was the best compost setup I have ever seen in a home
garden. It was a series of three bins holding different
stages of decomposition.
system was larger than most gardeners use because he
could not stand to see what others were throwing away.
He would drive the neighborhood, picking up their
leaves, clippings and other organic treasures to place
in his compost system.
piles can reach temperatures of 150 degrees inside from
the heat given off by the microorganisms. I love seeing
large piles of composting on a crisp morning. They will
be smoking as if they are cooking. Actually, they are
cooking up something good for us to use in the
home we can do the same thing on a smaller scale by
layering leaves or grass clippings 3-8 inches tall,
covering them with 2-3 inches of top soil, and repeating
the layers. The grass clippings provide nitrogen that
aids in decomposition. Itís not a bad idea to add a
half cup of ammonium nitrate per 8 bushels of leaves.
may be worried that compost piles will stink, but under
proper conditions they do not have an unpleasant odor.
Keep the pile moist, not soggy, and well aired for good
microbial growth, good heating and decomposition. Lack
of moisture and air will reduce microbial activity. Too
much moisture may cause undesirable decomposition, which
can lead to foul odor.
proper nitrogen and turning of grass clippings, the
process can take as little as 10 to 12 weeks. Leaves
take a little longer, and larger pieces of plant
material, such as wood chips or limbs, may take six
months to a year. You will be amazed at the potential of
bark to turn into to organic treasure.
donít have to have big bins; let the size fit your
yard. One of my favorite methods of building a compost
bin is to use discarded wood pallets. You can easily
make a square bin from four pallets by wiring the
the South we are still raking leaves and pine straw,
which led me to the reason some of our streets are lined
with paper bags. But even if yours are already gone,
spring will be coming soon and grass clippings will
either become your trash or treasure. I cast my vote for
treasure, for "Going Green in 2015."