Fall: The Perfect Time for Compost

Categories: Garden

Fall is possibly the best time of year to APPLY compost to your landscape: it’ll have a few months to settle in and nourish the soil with all of its magical properties.

Fall is also possibly the best time of year to try out MAKING compost because very easy materials to compost – leaves – are abundantly available.

At a talk I recently gave to a garden club in New Jersey – an ideal venue given its status as “The Garden State” – I encouraged the audience to get further along on the compost learning curve. To help nudge the group we created a simple quick-start guide to backyard composting. 

On the front, it provided a simple directions in three steps to help get momentum:

  1. Choose a container style
  2. Collect your materials
  3. Manage the compost magic (as much as you want)

A Simple Guide to Backyard Composting, by HarvestThese three steps will get you quickly composting.

On the back, we created a simple "We Compost" poster with visual cues. One can easily put this in the kitchen above the compost bin, or kitchen catcher, to educate household members on what goes in the bin.

Compost PosterA simple visual guide to post in your kitchen near your compost bin.

The response was fantastic. I felt particularly heartened that I had made a difference in the group of 75 attendees when I heard different conversations that indicated a shift in perspective. For example, after the lecture, I joined a group of four women in line for lunch who turned to me and said, “We were just talking about where we’re going to put our bins at our homes. It has to be far enough away from the back door to not look terrible, but close enough so that we actually use it.” Another member of the audience emailed, “You’ve successfully nudged me to do more composting. I’m collecting leaves this weekend for my new bin.”

Indeed, leaves are the perfect training wheels for a novice composter: You put them into your bin and poof! A few months later you have some lovely leaf litter: a fine, fluffy, nutrient-rich mulch that quickly breaks down into the soil. 

 I did get a few questions about what kitchen scrap material were appropriate for composting.  Eggshells?  Lobster shells? Banana peels?  Avocado pits?  In general, you want to add organic materials such vegetable and fruit peels, floral trimmings, and leaves. You can also add egg shells and seed shells, and small amounts of paper and lint.  You do not want meat, dairy, fish, or plastic. We put together a quick video to illustrate items you can and cannot compost:

 At the end of the day, it’s your compost party: you get to decide the composition of your decomposition.  If you don't like how long it takes for avocado pits to break down, then toss them elsewhere. If you don't like the idea of tea bags or lint in your bin, then put them in the garbage. The main thing to do is to start small and build on your successes.

What works for composting in your household?