Seasonal Schedule for Composting

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An effective storage system is the key to successfully using the materials each season provides. In the fall, collect and shred fallen leaves. The best use for them now is as mulch for trees, shrubs, and garden beds. Excess leaves can be stored – leaves from 100 bags can be shredded and put in a 4’x4’x4′ container. Some decomposition will take place over the winter, but not a significant amount. Continue to put kitchen scraps in the pile, but it’s not necessary to turn in cold climes.





If you want your compost pile to stay active during the winter, you’ll want an enclosed bin with insulated sides or a cold weather composter. A black bin situated in a sunny spot can help trap solar radiation during cold spells. Keep the pile as large as possible so that heat generated from decomposition will endure. You can also stack bales of straw along the sides of your bin to help retain the heat.

In areas with a cold winter, spring is the best time to start the compost pile in earnest. There’s an abundance of grass clippings and trimmings. Summer is the time the compost pile is working at its peak range of decomposition, especially if it has been turned once or twice. Cover and store the finished compost, or use it, and start another batch. With enough organic waste, you can produce several batches of highly managed compost during the summer.


{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

janice April 4, 2011 at 5:13 am

how much green and brown recyclable materials does it take to produce 1lb bag of compost?

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steve April 15, 2011 at 6:56 pm

@janice, This is a tough question, there are several variables. I can tell you this. When my 50 gallon compost bin is full, it ususally reduces down to less than 1/5 or less than when I started.

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diANE September 6, 2011 at 1:56 am

CAN YOU USE FLOWERS?

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steve September 6, 2011 at 2:14 pm

@diANE, Yes, you can compost flowers, and cutting them up with help them break down much quicker.

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gavin September 13, 2011 at 9:50 pm

cani use twigs and branches i have cut up to small sizes in my compost

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steve September 16, 2011 at 6:31 pm

@gavin, Yes, you can however I recommend not just cutting them up into small pieces but actually shredding them. If just small pieces they will take a while to break down, possible years. Shredded the twigs will take just a few months to fully break down.

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Megan October 2, 2011 at 9:08 pm

I have chickens, can I add their droppings? Should compost with feces in it be used in veggie gardens?

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steve October 4, 2011 at 2:36 pm

@Megan, Adding chicken droppings to your compost pile is fine. You can also add horse or cow manure; I would just avoid cat and dog dropping in your compost pile as well as other animals that eat meat. Yes, you can add this to your vegetable garden assuming you are letting the compost finish decomposing and it’s getting fairly hot in the process.

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Kristina March 24, 2012 at 7:57 pm

How do you go about shredding materials, especially in large quantities like the 100 bags of leaves mentioned above?

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steve March 28, 2012 at 2:23 pm

@Kristina, To break down the leaves you can buy a leaf shredder or run them over with an electric mower. http://www.cleanairgardening.com/leafshredder.html

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Lorraine August 5, 2012 at 8:21 am

I havent started yet but heres my question –
I buy a bin that turns. I add material everyday. Now its day 68. Am I going to have a mix of brown “soil” ready to use (that i added on day 1) with the newer non decomposed stuff, all mixed in as well with the stuff thats middle of the line (that was added day 39) ? In other words, do i ever stop adding new material so that everything catches up with each other and is ready at the same time? I dont want to be separating the “undone”pieces from the ready to use compost in the same bin.

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steve August 6, 2012 at 3:49 pm

@Lorraine, When composting there is not really any wrong way, basically there are just ways to make it work faster. If you just have one bin you can either add all your material and one time to the compost bin or compost tumbler (called batch composting) or add it as you go. If adding it as you go then at some point you will need to stop and let everything finish breaking down. Keep in mind there is no set time that compost will be finished, some compost batches may take as little as 45 days under perfect conditions and other times it may take 3 to 4 months for your material to completely break down. You will likely find in time that an additional composter will be helpful. Also, some people may want the material to completely break down where it looks like dirt and others are happy with it mostly broken down and it looks more like mulch.

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Margaret February 19, 2014 at 8:11 pm

We have four raised beds, each is 8′ x 8′. I compost right in the beds, and do it all through the growing season. Is that too much composting? Last year, my garden yield was abysmal. I don’t apply other nutrients. I just figured the compost was providing what the plants needed. And I haven’t had the soil tested. Ever. What am I doing wrong?

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