About now compost collections are growing faster than anything else in the garden.
All those spent annuals, fallen leaves and vegetable and fruit scraps are all ready to be recycled into rich plant food for future seasons.
How you choose to compost them can involve a rich assortment of choices - and it's quite possible to have several methods going at once. In city gardens it's important to have critter-proof compost bins.
Rats and skunks are among urban wildlife that look on fresh compost material as a warm condo plus free lunch. Meanwhile, hungry raccoons damage compost arrangements.
Plastic bins where you add compostible stuff at the top and later remove finished compost from a door at the base are about as critter-proof as compost bins can be. These bins are sometimes available at low cost in municipal or city programs.
The wooden box type of bin generally has a lid and can be lined with wire mesh to stop small animals getting in. Often the front and one side can be removed, making it easier to turn the compost. These can be home-made.
Three wooden boxes in a row means you can be putting compost in one while you are using finished compost from another and going through the turning stage to expose the third bin's contents to oxygen.
Oxygen speeds up composting. Any vegetable garden can have a temporary chicken-wire surround for fallen leaves which decompose over the winter. It's better if material inside is not too heavy because the four or five poles which support the wire must be plunged deeply into the soil.
Kitchen scraps can be dug into the vegetable garden.
One of the best methods is dumping one compost bucket at a time in one small part of a trench and covering that bit with soil immediately.
Other composting methods include: rotating bins, tumbling bins, spreading vegetables and weeds on paths within a vegetable patch, and the 'heap' method (best for rural dwellers).
The 'heap' method is simply layering compostibles in a heap in some secluded garden corner.
Various people tweak the composting rules a little depending on whether they garden in urban small space or out-of town large space.
But the basic method is always the same: alternating layers of green waste with brown, dried garden debris.
Green waste includes veggie and fruit scraps, non-seeded weeds, coffee grounds/tea bags and grass clipping. Brown waste includes leaves, dried stems (including pea and bean vines) and straw.
Try to get straw that has few or no seeds. Eggshells contain calcium and can go in compost if they've been dried and crushed. A potato masher turns them into fragments easily. Uncrushed eggshells attract rats that like to eat the bit of egg inside.
Other things that get you into trouble with compost include: pet poop, cooked food, meat, bones, badly diseased leaves, roots of invasive plants and anything that's been herbicided.
Corn cobs, nutshells, and pine cones, heavy waxy leaves and branches are very reluctant to break down - though branch breakdown is hastened if you chop branches into small pieces.
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