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Composting in Autumn

Many of you may already know that adding rich compost to your home garden can greatly increase the health and yield of your herbs and vegetables. But by recycling some of your own household scraps into compost, you can significantly reduce the amount of waste you produce. Not only do you decrease the volume of your garbage, but you can also cut down on the pollution created by landfills.

The end of the summer offers great opportunities to compost all the fresh fruit and veggies that your garden has produced during its most productive days, but the autumn season provides unique opportunities to improve the quality of your compost even more.

In the coming autumn months, you may have extra leaves to add to your compost pile. This will not only aerate your compost, providing oxygen necessary for decomposition, but it will also add needed "brown" to the heap. Don't forget! Browns are those items high in carbon, and "greens" are those that are high in nitrogen. Your pile needs a proper ratio of both to become the rich, dark loam that your garden craves. There are a variety of ways to use your raked leaves not only for compost but also as mulch to protect your garden's soil from winter weather. Leaf mulch will cause your garden to have a higher starting temperature come spring planting. For those of you braving the cold weather and planting fall and winter crops, use these leaves as a soil cover to protect your plants from cooler temperatures and damaging weather.

Dead pine needles may also be added to your compost pile as an excellent source of those "brown," carbon-rich materials. If your fallen pine needles are still a little green, allow them to sit around the base of the tree until they have had time to dry out. This will act as natural mulch for your pine trees before being recycled as compost. Brown pine needles may also be used as over-wintering mulch, just make sure to spread a thicker layer.

When you clean out your summer vegetable garden, you are sure to have lots of spent plants. These, along with your annual flowers, can provide beneficial nutrients to your compost. Any remnants of Halloween pumpkin carving or your favorite fall butternut squash recipe can also be added. The autumn season is a great time to add items that take longer to break down, as your compost pile will have plenty of time to let them decompose.

Composting DO's and DON'T's:

DO compost: Fruit and vegetable kitchen scraps Discarded house plants Shredded newspapers, clean paper and paper towel rolls Eggshells, tea bags, coffee grounds and filters, egg shells, and nut shells Straw and hay, and animal manure (besides your pets')

DO NOT compost: Animal products such as meats and fats, or oils Diseased plants Pernicious weeds Dairy products (besides cleaned egg shells)



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