Monday, February 21, 2011


Last year, I built a compost pile out of leaves, stuff I pruned out of the flours and shrubs, garden waste, kitchen waste, etc.  While it did produce some compost, enough to help fill my raised planter/green house, it did not do a great job.  I think I didn't have enough green matter and I never reached a critical mass.  This year will be different.  I have been picking up bagged yard waste to add to my compost pile and I have been turning it regularly.  Now I know bagged yard waste does produce some concern when it comes to pesticides and other chemicals, but I think I have limited the risk.  I never pick up from yards that have signs warning that they have been sprayed, and I picked up most of it during winter.  Most homes don't fertilize or spray during winter.  There are two kinds of bags, ones filled with leaves and ones filled with trimmings from a bagged mower.  The ones from the bagged mower contain some grass clippings and some leaves, about 2-3 parts leaves to 1 part grass.  These I add directly to my compost pile.  The ones with just leaves go to mulch around trees and shrubs mostly.  Some do get added to the compost pile, but not before they have been run over by my push mower a few times and mixed with straw bales that have been chopped by the mower too.

As you can see by the size of my compost pile it has absolutely exceeded  the critical mass point, usually seen as 1 cubic yard (3'x3'x3').  I have 6 pallets placed in the corner of the yard against a chain link fence.  At least once a week I turn half the pile and add a few more bags of yard clippings.  As of this morning the temperature inside the pile was over 140*.  I hope to use this compost in 6-8 weeks to build some lasagna gardening beds.

Tips:  Check bags for pine cones, sweet gum balls, and magnolia leaves or seed pods.  These do not go well in a compost bed, but may be found in yard waste.


  1. I have the opposite problem. Our compost pile has a continual shortage of brown matter so it's basically just a pile of rotting garbage. (We have it in a homemade bin so at least the neighbors don't complain.)

  2. leahkathlyn,

    Here are a few suggestions some don't have to be purchased and some do. Leaves, help a friend or neighbor rake leaves in exchange for leaves. If your landscaper has leaves from other property ask that he bring you some.
    Most cities will let you pick up yard waste from the city dumpsite, they are usually free or only a small fee. There is also wood chips at these sites from limbs and trees that people discard. They break down more slowly than leaves and grass in a compost pile, but they are carbon rich if you have too much nitrogen compost in your pile. They are also an inexpensive mulch for flower beds and shrubs. It is the same thing that you pat $10 a bag for, but it does not have the dye to make it red or black.
    If you need more compost or fertilizer go to a local horse farm and ask for manure. Green manure, fresh, is a good fertilizer and many farms have piles that have been there for years and is already composted, no smell other than that of rich black dirt.
    Another free farm option is spoiled hay. This is hay that has gotten wet or moldy and can not be fed to livestock. Many times if a farm has some they will be happy to have you haul it away.
    While it does cost money, Peat moss is an organic brown that you can add to your compost pile.
    Sawdust, never from treated wood, can be picked up for free from many sawmills, cabinet shops, or furniture manufacturers.
    Straw, bales made from the leftover stalks of grains, are usually $3-5 per bale, and a great source of carbon if you have too much nitrogen in your compost pile.