Fall composting tips for leaves and pumpkins

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Fall composting tips for leaves and pumpkins
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Compost bins need to allow good air flow to keep materials from smelling bad.

Fall temperatures invite us to spend more time outside and yard cleanup may even seem more of an opportunity than a chore. But before you bag up all those fall remnants like dried leaves, corn stalks and pumpkins, consider composting them. They will give your yard and garden a much-needed boost for next spring's growth.

Rent a shredder

Particle size is one of the most important aspects of successful composting. The smaller the particles are, the quicker they will break down. If you don't already have a machine that can shred your materials, consider renting one.

- Make sure you have everything gathered and ready to go before renting your shredder. This will allow you to rent for a smaller amount of time, saving you money.

- Ask your neighbors if they would like to share the cost of the shredder. Depending on the amount of material you have to compost, three or four people should be able to use the same shredder in the same day.

Buy or make your composting container

One of the vital components of biodegradation for compost is heat. You need the core temperature of your compost to heat up enough to break down the plant material. This is particularly challenging in fall and winter, so the more contained you can keep your material, the better it will work. Compost bins that are especially designed for this purpose work best. However, you can also build your own out of scrap materials or simply use the compost heap method.

- When making your own compost container, old wood pallets work great. The boards are close enough together to keep compost material from spilling out, yet far enough apart to allow good air flow.

- If using the compost heap method, be sure to locate it in a sheltered spot away from winter winds.

Maintain your compost

Although just making a pile of leaves would eventually work over time, it may take years! A healthy, well-functioning compost pile requires several elements:

- A good mix of both brown and green vegetative materials. Brown items include dried leaves and corn stalks. Green items include pumpkins and grass clippings.

- Periodic "turning" that mixes the hot, working core of your pile with the cooler, inactive material from the outside.

- Moisture to accelerate material breakdown.

- Air flow to prevent objectionable odors.

Deter the critters

Many people avoid composting because they believe it will attract animal pests like raccoons and rats. Although this can be the case, there are precautions you can take to avoid attracting unwanted visitors.

- Use a sealed compost bin rather than a compost heap.

- Use only plant materials from your yard and avoid adding table scraps like meat and fish.

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