Question of the Week – Number Two: December 3, 2020

I’m new to composting and backyard gardening. I harvested all of my fallen tree leaves. What can I do to speed up the compost so it will be ready by spring?

Good call on saving and recycling those leaves! They contain valuable organic matter and lots of nutrients you added in the form of fertilizers last growing season.

However, spring plantings begin with onions and English peas in 6 or 8 weeks, so it may not be practical to expect current compost to be ready quite that quickly. But you can give it a try and if you don’t make it for the first round, you’ll be ready for crops later in the season.

Continued Below

It’s really fairly simple…
The keys to an active compost pile include moisture, oxygen, nitrogen and warmth.
Don’t let the pile dry out. You may need to water the pile during prolonged winter dry spells.
Use a spading fork (short-handled pitchfork) to turn the pile monthly. That will keep it from packing and sealing out the fresh air. If your compost pile is elongated, use a mini-tiller to loosen it up. It will lighten your workload.
As you turn the compost to aerate it, mix in one cup of all-nitrogen lawn fertilizer per cubic yard (3x3x3 ft.) of compost.
Lay a sheet of black polyethylene plastic over the compost to absorb and retain the sun’s warmth. Weight it down to hold it in place. The plastic will also serve to hold in the moisture, an added benefit.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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