University of Illinois Extension

 


John Church
Extension Educator, Natural Resources
Rockford Extension Center

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It’s Never Too Early to Prepare to Compost



Although winter is still with us, now can be good time to prepare to compost yard and garden waste during the coming yard and garden season. As spring arrives, overwintering plant residue will be cleaned up from the yard and garden and much of it can be disposed of by making compost. During the gardening season, vegetable and flower materials, grass clippings, leaves, and other non-woody materials can make good compost, which then can be used later to help improve the soil's organic matter and tilth.

Now is a good time to locate materials to make a compost bin or to look at various types of commercially available composters. About a cubic yard, 3 ft. x 3 ft. x 3 ft., can be an ideal size for most home compost bins. It is a good size to accommodate most yard waste materials and is a manageable size for turning and speed of composting. Although not required for good composting, commercial bins can be purchased. Check for ventilation, size, ease of removal of compost, and other factors.

Homemade bins can certainly be used, made of fencing wire, cement blocks, old lumber, used pallets, bricks or other materials. Now is a good time to find those materials and have the bin ready for later this spring. Actually, composting can be done in a pile without any container, but the more concentrated, contained area helps maintain heating levels and can speed the composting process.

If properly done, compost should not have an odor and if properly sited, the bins or piles can blend nicely into the garden or yard area. If there is an odor, the most likely cause is the lack of air, which can be remedied by turning the pile more often. Some commercial and homemade compost units can be easier to turn than others, so that should be a part of the planning. Rodents or insects should not be a problem if meaty or fatty food scraps are not used.

U. of I. horticulturists recommend that grass clippings be left on the lawn after mowing even if composting. But, picking up some clippings for the compost bin periodically can provide a good nitrogen source. Composting can help reduce the amount of material that has to be disposed of by burning or disposal through commercial haulers.
For more information on composting and managing yard wastes, contact your local University of Illinois Extension office or check the website: www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/compost.

 

February - March 2004: Seed Starting | It’s Never Too Early to Prepare to Compost | Season Extenders | Winter Damage to Home Lawns

 

 

Past Issues

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