There is a time for all things to come to pass. Although the fall rains may bring some longing for the dog days of summer, they remind us that the seasons are shifting.
As we move into the bloom of mushrooms from moist earth, and changing colours in trees, it can be a great time to reap a harvest of leaves and get our compost cooking.
Before the frost hits and keeps us from venturing as long or far outdoors, it can be the perfect time to gather amendments for your backyard compost pile.
Why leaves in particular? Other than being free and abundant, they become carbon-rich soon after they fall and turn brown. Carbon is often just what your late summer compost heap is hungry for. It may have just had a windfall of bruised fruit, which is nitrogen-rich, and now it needs a good dose of the other main ingredient in a healthy compost.
Approximately equal volumes of both nitrogen and carbon make for a hot, happy party in your compost. Don’t be surprised if it starts steaming for a few days after carbon-rich materials, also known as “browns” such as leaves, old lawn clippings, shredded newspaper, wood chips, or wood shavings are mixed in.
Simply add these as a top layer after kitchen scraps or fresh lawn clippings. These will create a nice barrier from fruit flies, as an added bonus, and also make your pile less attractive to furry critters of all shapes and sizes.
A word of caution with using “brown” as the descriptor for carbon-rich, however, as coffee grinds and manure both happen to be nitrogen-rich, despite their colour. They’re still great additions to kick-start a compost pile that has gone dormant, but also remember to add leaves or the like to get the chemistry working on your side.
Incidentally, an active compost heap reaches temperatures more likely to kill weeds and pathogens, so get that pile cooking!
No backyard composter? Then leave the leaves where they lie. They will quickly return to the soil as food for worms, fungi, bacteria, nematodes, microorganisms, and ultimately, the trees and shrubs they fell from.
If you are still reaping an abundance of fruit from trees that you can’t process for food, a great drop-off location is one of the two free compost collection bins in the regional district. Town Centre Recycling Depot accepts loads of up to 20 pounds, six days a week during business hours, and Sunshine Disposal on Franklin Avenue receives loads up to two yards (approximately what would fill the back of a pickup truck) on Wednesdays and Saturdays between 10 am and 4 pm. Be sure to keep invasive weeds, compostable plastics, oyster shells and branches thicker than one inch out.
To everything, a season. A time to grow, and a time to compost.
Let’s Talk Trash is qathet Regional District’s waste-reduction education program.