Fixing a good meal to feed your garden Compost: Take a yard-full of leaves and a handful of peelings, add water and stir. Soon you'll have some nourishing humus.

October 26, 1997|By Nancy Brachey | Nancy Brachey,KNIGHT-RIDDER NEWS SERVICE

When the leaves fall this autumn, put them to work. Their job is composting; the result is a rich-looking dark-brown organic material called humus.

Humus, which most people simply call compost, "adds life to your soil, makes it lighter and more friable," says gardening instructor Don Boekelheide. "It makes your soil and garden rich."

Further, he says, compost helps the soil conserve water and makes fertilizer work more efficiently. Besides improving the soil, composting is a way to deal with kitchen and yard debris.

Boekelheide names three major sources of home and garden wastes:

* Leaves and yard trimmings: Leaf litter, shrub trimmings, spent flowers and vegetables, and even sweet gum tree balls (good for aeration) can all go into the compost pile.

* Kitchen scraps. Peelings, stems and trimmings of fruits and vegetables, egg shells, coffee grounds and broken corncobs can all go into compost. Bury the scraps deeply in the pile.

Don't add meat or grease, which attract vermin and flies and cause odor. Add dairy products rarely and sparingly.

* Grass clippings. Boekelheide believes grass clippings are better on the lawn than in the compost. Mow the grass often enough so that no more than one-third of the blade is removed and let clippings decompose naturally to return nitrogen to the lawn. In a compost pile, unless thoroughly mixed with other ingredients, grass clippings tend to form tight mats, then putrefy and attract insects.

To make compost

Make a round backyard bin from 12 1/2 feet of stiff, wire fencing set on level ground. Alternate 12-inch layers of dry leaves with nitrogen-rich layers of cow manure plus fertilizer or alfalfa mix.

Add a shovelful or two of old compost or good topsoil. Mix well while adding water. Work in kitchen scraps regularly. Stir well again after one week, then at three-week intervals for 12 weeks.

Compost should be ready in four to 12 months, depending on the season and materials.

Pub Date: 10/26/97

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