The summer is winding down. The days are shorter and the temperature is dropping. So are all those leaves that have provided shade for you during the “dog days” of summer. Now is the time to look forward to turning all those leaves into
Black Gold is the gardener’s name for compost. One of the prime ingredients for making compost is the fallen leaves that litter your yard. By composting, you keep the bags of leaves out of the local landfill and turn them into a valuable addition to your garden or shrubs.
What Exactly Is Compost?
Compost is the end result of the mixture of nitrogen rich and carbon rich natural materials, that when allowed to decompose over time, result in rich, crumbly compost. In the fall, you have an abundance of the carbon rich fallen leaves. Since you need three times as much carbon as nitrogen, this is the perfect time to start a pile of compost.
How Do I Make A Compost Pile?
There are a few guidelines to making a compost pile. But don’t despair if you don’t get it quite right. It is the nature of leaves to break down and they will eventually.
- The one thing you must do before you compost is to shred your leaves. Just run over them with the lawn mower a few times before you rake them up. Another way is to use a leaf blower, which has a vacuum adjustment. The vacuum setting will grind them up too. Your leaves will decompose much more rapidly if you do this.
- You need to add a source of nitrogen to your pile. This could be green grass clippings, fresh manure, blood meal, or cottonseed meal. Of course, you can also buy commercial activators. Remember that the carbon-nitrogen ratio should be 75 to 25.
- Find an out of the way place, maybe at the edge of your yard or behind your garden. Try to place the pile near a water source, because you need to keep the pile damp.
- Lay down a foot of shredded leaves. Then add your green material keeping to the ratio of 3 to 1. Sprinkle on some dirt to help the bacteria that will work on your raw materials. Water lightly and then repeat the process building layer after layer.
- After about ten days, turn your compost pile with a garden fork. After that, turn every two weeks, keep it as damp as a wrung out sponge. Your finished pile should be about 3 X 4 feet in size.
There are some alternatives to making a compost pile. You can just rake your leaves into piles and leave them. They will eventually break down. If you prefer to bag your leaves, just poke some holes in the bottom of the bags. You’ll be surprised what earthworms can do over the winter.
There are also compost tumblers that you can purchase. You just add your materials to the tumbler, close it up and turn the crank. If you are short on space, this is the way to go. They come in different sizes for your individual needs.
What Can I Do With My Compost?
There are many uses for compost. In fact, you can never have enough. Here are some of the ways to use compost.
- Spread it on your garden beds in the spring time, a few weeks before you are ready to plant flowers and vegetables. Add it to planting holes when you are planting shrubs or trees.
- Use it as mulch around trees and shrubs. You’ll be conserving moisture and adding organic fertilizer as well.
- Spread a thin layer over your lawn. It will add organic matter to your lawn, resulting in a lush green grass without having to resort to harmful chemical fertilizers.
- Use it as a soil amendment. Compost will help break up heavy clay and will add moisture retention materials to sandy soil.
- Put a shovel of finished compost in a 5 gallon bucket of water and let it stand a few days. Then use it as a liquid nutrient during midsummer to give your flowers a boost.
You will be glad you took the effort to compost your leaves, when you see the beautiful flowers and vegetables growing in your garden. Those peppers and zucchini are always delicious, especially when they are cooked on outdoor grills. Can’t you picture the birds and butterflies that will flock to your flowers and provide you with entertainment all summer.
So when it’s time to gather those leaves, just think of the Black Gold that you could have in the spring and get out there and compost those leaves.
Author Bio: Stephanie Trementozzi has been gardening and composting for many years. She enjoys being outdoors. Her website, Always Outdoors, features articles on camping, hiking and more. She also writes product reviews for outdoor products, such as the Nikon Monarch binoculars.
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