Take leaves, grass clippings, and leftover food scraps (no meat or dairy) to one of the three compost sites in Clinton County. Better yet, start your own compost bin at home to make rich fertilizer for your garden and landscaping.
Composting At Home
Easiest Compost Pile
Rake leaves in a mound. Wait. Leaves will turn into beautiful crumbly brown compost in a year or less. Use to mulch favorite plants. A four foot by four foot pile is a good size. It retains moisture easily, but isn’t so big materials will get compacted.
Mow Leaves Into The Lawn
Mulching fall leaves directly into the lawn with your mower is easy and helps return needed organic material. It gives fertilization when lawns need it most, in the fall. Just make sure you can see the lawn poking through the leaves, and remember to sharpen your mower blade before spring as it will dull it. Mulching is a great way to avoid raking. Parks have used this method for years with great results.
Grass Clippings – Direct Compost
Your lawn wants it’s clippings back. It craves the nitrogen and 20 trace minerals given off as the clippings decompose into your soil. Mulch directly into your lawn. A year of clippings easily equals one application of store bought nitrogen, and it’s free. If you mow your grass three inches high it has more surface area to produce stronger roots. It also shades crab grass seedlings, killing them before they can get established.
Fancy Three Bin Model
Top of the line – features two bins to turn active materials back and forth into, and a holding bin for finished compost.
Mortarless Block Bin
Stack blocks so air can move through them. Not using mortar means you can move the pile if you want. Some like to grow vines along the outside to make it pretty.
10 Second Wire Bin
Buy ten feet of wire fence and secure with three chain clips. You can unclip for easy access. Some like to unclip, set up next to the pile, and turn materials into the empty bin.
Five Pallet Bin
Screw together three sides, leaving the front fourth panel chained or hinged so you can get at it for turning. Try a bottom pallet to create air movement in the pile.
Compost Questions & Answers
Can I make my compost pile go faster?
Yes, you can chop up leaves with your mower, increasing the surface area which make the pile compost faster. You can also water the pile when it’s dry outside – the microbes that do the actual composting need consistent moisture to do their best work. If you have a leaf only pile, adding green weeds or grass clippings also causes faster composting. Add about one quarter green material to your brown leaves.
Can I just bury food scraps in the ground?
Some gardeners use a post hole digger to get down six to eight inches, then bury grains, fruit and vegetable scraps. This is deep enough to discourage animals from digging it up, but it still composts.
Are there other easy ways to compost fall leaves?
You can rake them on concrete, put on safety glasses and run over them with your mower. Presto – instant mulch! Save in bags over the winter to mulch with in early summer. Putting down up to four inches of chopped up leaves on your garden plants in June means even moisture for them, less weeding for you all summer. Just keep mulch two inches away from plant stems.
In the fall you can also put leaves directly in the garden. Pile up to two feet of leaves on the garden, shovel them in as best you can, then sprinkle soil on top to hold them down. 90% will be decomposed by spring. Just pull back the remaining leaves and plant as usual. This method eliminates turning and puts the compost right where you need it.
How Do I Compost Leftover Food Scraps?
You need an enclosed bin to compost fruit, vegetable and grain scraps to exclude animals. Make your own by cutting out the bottom of a study plastic trash can and setting it in the ground about eight inches. Fill three quarters full with fall leaves, then add food scraps. Pull leaves over the food each time you add it. Continue to add leaves as the pile decomposes down.
What if my bin smells bad?
You need to get oxygen into it. Add more fall leaves and stir or poke the pile to get air into it. Microbes that can live in environments without oxygen create bad smells, and you want to encourage the other kind. If the pile is too wet or has too much green material it can smell. The solution is the same – add leaves or chopped up paper and stir. Some composters drill holes in plastic pipe and insert into the middle of their piles. This introduces air, and can also be used to get water into the middle of the pile.