Friday, July 18, 2008

Save Browns for Spring Composting

Just as Seattle gets too much water in winter and not enough in summer, compost materials can be difficult to balance across the seasons. Spring brings us too many "greens" while fall brings us too many "browns" for a balanced compost pile. The solution is to save some browns now to use next year's compost. Unlike "greens" which tend to get stinky if you try to store them, browns will patiently wait until you're ready for them.

When autumn leaves start falling, offer to rake your neighbor's lawn, or collect leaves from local side streets. Get your kids or grandkids into the act! Collecting leaves will be less messy if you get a head start on the rains, but even wet leaves will store fairly well.

If you have an out of the way location that won't be unsightly, store your leaves in plastic garbage bags. If not, simply pile the leaves on your garden plot after harvest time. Cover the pile with burlap weighted down with stones to keep your leaves from blowing away. You could even build a wire cage at your plot to store more leaves.

Some P-Patches make arrangements with the city to deliver leaves cleared from public streets or parks. If your P-Patch has enough room to store lots of extra leaves, contact the P-Patch office about setting up delivery.

When spring finally rolls around, mix your saved leaves with fresh grass clippings, coffee grounds, and other "greens" to start a batch of compost. If you keep the leaves a year or more, they'll eventually break down into great "leaf mold" that you can use to start seedlings or to mulch your garden. Don't let the word "mold" scare you – that's just the term for old leaves that have broken down to the consistency of soil.

Copyright © 2004 Brian Ballard. All rights reserved.

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