Every year most folks dread the idea of cleaning up the leaves in their yards.
I on the other hand do not mind as not only do I use some of the composted material in my garden but also save hundreds of dollars by using the compost for bedding material for some of my worm beds.
With more and more people each year looking to decrease their carbon footprint I decided to show you how to build and benefit from a composting pile rather than just burning your leaves!
While the use of a compost tumbler is fine for many purposes, it is not needed nor would it fit all the material I collect from the yard this time of year.
Besides for many people the cost of purchasing a compost tumbler to use once a year may not be worth it.
Do not get me wrong, a compost tumbler for an avid gardener can be a great tool to have in ones arsenal.
The main thing to keep in mind is the height of the pile or windrow.
I started my compost pile at four and a half feet high. Height is important in order to generate enough heat as well as maintain it to break down the organic materials.
From here I will now build on it to form a windrow but decided to build a pile to start with as most people do not have the amount of material that falls on our property to build a windrow.
In order to make the compost pile more effective I did a couple things.
First, being the smaller the particles the more surface area made available to aerobic microbes which assist in the breakdown of the organic matter, I mulched the material into finer particles.
Here is a pile of leaves prior to mulching using a mulching lawn mower I purchased several years ago for this purpose.
Here is the same pile of leaves after being mulched
Secondly, to help speed things up, I used worm castings being they are already full of beneficial aerobic microbes.
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This enables them to get right to work rather than waiting for them to develop within the pile before they can assist in breaking down the compost pile.
Worm castings were simply sprinkled over the compost pile in between layers added.
I also moistened down each layer of the compost pile after adding the worm castings.
While we had a cool rain yesterday afternoon and evening and a cool 41 degrees Fahrenheit this morning the internal temperature of the composting material just 24 hours after piling up the material was already at 107 degrees Fahrenheit.
Keep in mind while the temperature is climbing rapidly, I still want it to raise it approximately 60 degrees more.
The only thing left which can be controversial is whether to turn the pile (hot composting) or to leave it alone (cold composting).
Hot composting piles should be turned just as the internal temperature begins to drop, usually at least once or twice a week.
This process helps to keep the pile oxygenated which utilizes aerobic microbes.
This is the method I prefer as it is quicker, can kill off seeds in the pile by basically cooking them and does not have an odor.
Cold composting on the other hand is a much slower process, usually will enable any seeds in the pile to germinate in the spring time and does generate an odor being the compost is broken down by anaerobic microbes.
Anaerobic microbes in some instances such as found in swamps are known to cause sickness and diseases.
Anaerobic microbes are not beneficial to garden areas or worm bedding, hence why I personally prefer hot composting with beneficial aerobic microbes.
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