Turn Your Leaves Into Gold

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Contributed by Ellen Vandevisse

Put your leaves and stalks to work for you this fall. Compost them into rich humus. Composting is the ultimate in recycling and creates nature’s best fertilizer. Finished compost benefits everything you grow, with minerals, microbes and organic matter to enrich your soil.

Compost is easy to make yourself. Here are three tricks for the cold compost method:

1. Heap It Up: Pile your leaves, grass clippings, weeds, vegetable scraps, eggshells, coffee grounds, livestock manure, straw…whatever organic matter you happen to have around. As you build up this heap, mix it and water each layer ‘til it is as moist as a wrung-out sponge. Cover it with tarp or plastic. Then stand back! Mighty, but microscopic-sized workers swing into action. These decomposing organisms magically decompose all that waste. As they work for you, you’ll notice that your pile shrinks. It might steam a bit too. These are good signs that your microbes are transforming your waste.

2. Stir: Stir this pile occasionally. Do this by turning the pile over with a pitchfork or shovel. Add water to dry spots.

3. Compost It Cold: Does my pile have to get hot? No. Do I have to turn it? No. Whether or not you turn the pile and whether or not it gets hot… compost happens. Pull the top layer off your heap in a few months, and PRESTO! You’ll discover that the core has slowly and steadily composted into sweet-smelling, dark, rich humus. Congratulations, you are an alchemist. You’ve made garbage into gold! You’ve made fertilizer out of yard and kitchen waste, and saved money at the landfill.

The Mat-Su Borough offers free composting classes. Find the details on the “Division of Solid Waste” Facebook page.

Ellen Vandevisse operates Good Earth Garden School and offers an instructional DVD on Alaskan composting through www.goodearthgardenschool.com.