You know you want to. You know you should. But are you going to screw up and make a big stinky mess? Learning to compost discarded plant material is one of the Top 10 skills every gardener should master. By learning to create compost, you will:
Stop throwing away a valuable gardening resource.
Stop stuffing plant crap into awkward paper bags that tear and require using bad language around small children.
Stop placing your compost ingredients on the curb for noisy polluting trucks to carry away.
Stop buying inferior compost from the garden store.
So the answer is YES, you should learn how to create compost out of your grass clippings, tree/shrub leaves, kitchen waste, and any undiseased plant bits from your yard and garden. Chop them into smallish pieces, mix the squishy green bits into the drier brown bits in a pile, and soak with water. Cover and occasionally toss with a spading fork.
Most importantly, KEEP IT SIMPLE. Place your compost bin/pile in a location where you’ll actually ADD to it on a regular basis. Avoid bins or containers that are smaller than 3’x3’x3’, or your pile not experience enough biological activity to decompose in this decade. (I’m not a fan of small tumblers.) One benefit of compost bin location is that it slowly and gently fertilizes whatever roots are beneath it.
Once the plant materials break down into beautiful, unidentifiable brown bits, dig it back into your garden every time you grab a shovel or trowel. It adds plant and beneficial microbe nutrition, water-retention AND improved drainage to your soil. Plus recycling your own plant material is very, very good for the planet and makes you a more awesome person.
Another useful article is the “The Citizen’s Guide to Composting” from our very own EPA.OHIO.GOV.
PS. You may screw up the first time but once you get it, YOU GET IT. You can’t unlearn how to make compost and you’ll wonder why you waited so long. And now you know why people steal/store bags of leaves in the autumn -- to mix with grass clippings the next summer!
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