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Fall Composting

Fall Composting

Fall is here, and with it comes an abundance of rich composting materials!

In my neck of the woods (Ontario) the leaves are already starting to pile up on lawns and it’s time to start thinking about cutting back my perennials and clean up the veggie gardens. The end result will be a major surplus of organic materials – all prime composting fodder.

As an avid vermicomposter, I’ll be using my leaves and yard waste to help keep my outdoor worm bin active during the cold months ahead. In fact, my aim is to make it all the way through till spring this time around (last winter I had to call it quits in January). You can read a little more about my plans at Red Worm Composting:
Preparation for Winter Worm Composting

Leaves in the Worm Bin

Last year I found that leaves were a fantastic material since they provided both insulation and food for the worms. The only problem was that I burned through my supply far too quickly. This fall I’m hoping to build up a much larger stash by raiding neighbourhood curbside collections (ok, maybe I’ll ask permission – hehe).

Leaves are a great choice for hot composting as well, but tend to have a C:N above the optimal range so it will definitely help to mix in other (nitrogen-rich) materials. They also have a tendency to get matted down when wet which of course impedes the air flow, slowing down the composting process. If you happen to have some bulkier green plant materials on-hand these will be perfect for mixing in with the leaves.

Tomato Waste

Around this time last fall I decided to clean up my tomato garden – the end result was a huge heap of plants and leftover tomatoes (shown on the right). I ended up chopping everything up and adding them to my worm bin, but this material mixed with leaves would have made for an excellent hot composting pile.

If you are going to use bulky plant materials in your heap, be sure to shred them as much as possible. This helps increase surface area for microbial colonization and makes them easier to work with.

Last fall I did all my chopping by hand using a pair of loppers (heavy duty plant shears), but a small chipper of some sort would definitely work well. If you don’t have a chipper and don’t feel like taking the time to chop by hand, an easy way to do the job is to lay the materials out in a thin layer and run over them with your lawn mower. Even better, add a layer of leaves over top (a ratio of 2:1, leaves:green waste should work well) and attach a catcher bag to your mower. You’ll end up with a nice mixture ready to make into a compost pile.

[tags]fall, fall leaves, composting, hot composting, compost, compost bin, compost pile, worm bin, worm composting, vermicomposting[/tags]

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Written by Compost Guy on October 2nd, 2007 with 1 comment.
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#1. October 31st, 2011, at 11:26 PM.

So, it’s no problem adding tomato plants to the worm bin? I came across a negative statement about doing so, and in researching the issue, am finding it really difficult to find anyone saying definitively yay or nay. Hot compost pile seems to be okay. Did find an article written by the Curious Cook about cooking with small amounts of tomato leaves…

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