Composting To Every Season, Turn, Turn, Turn; There is a Season, Turn, Turn, Turn
A Time to Rest
No matter the
climate, like humans the land needs time to rest. Traditional farmers have
known this for centuries and give the land time to rest with crop rotation.
This rotation helps to confuse pests and gather much lacking nutrients to the
soils with the use of cover crops. In this section I am planning to take a look
at this resting period in a more basic way.
Growing up in
New York I always found it easy to know when to quit gardening for the season.
This season is the time to let garden life rest. This time of year was when the
weather started to get too cold to work outside. The harvest moon and the fall
harvest signify the end to the north eastern growing season.Apple picking season, pumpkins, football and
the time between the American holidays of Halloween and Thanksgiving all are
the generational clues to let the earth have its resting period. Memories of
velvety leaves scattered on the cold ground fill my thoughts of this time.
Though this seemed like the end, it was only part of the circle of life in
nature. As in nature, this is the time to prepare for the next spring season. Mother Nature Doesn’t Sleep
isn’t going to bed just yet there is too much work to be done. As the fall
colorful leaf spectacle is done in the woods, the leaves fall for a reason.
They will eventually prove food for the earth. In the untouched woods leaves
fall and rot through the winter months. Worms, insects and other microorganisms
eat the leaves, turning them into compost. This compost offers micro nutrients
needed for all living plants.
As humans we
can duplicate this process, and feed our own gardens with little expense. Much
of today’s population living in colder climates feels fallen leaves are clutter
that needs to be removed. Neighborhoods of people like clockwork, traditionally
rake and pile up fallen leaves which they consider clutter. They make huge
piles of these leaves to sometimes to have the kids jump into them. After the
fun, they bag the leaves up just to put them out for the garbage collector. The
tradition is so engrained in our culture; it seems difficult to see another
Listen to your Mother
Looking at Mother Nature we
may understand a better way. Like the bible says, ‘To every season, turn, turn.
Autumn is Mother Nature’s season to provide food for her spring babies. We to
should follow Mother Nature’s lessons and provide food for our gardens. I think
you know where I’m going with this. Think about it. Mother Nature is showing us
common sense she is showing us we too can take these leaves and feed them to
our garden babies in the spring. It’s a simple solution to our leaf clutter
problem that may supply our vegetable and flower gardens with all the
nutritious soil needed. And it’s all for free! Composting
To some of
today’s population consider compost piles to be dirty and unsightly. I feel to
the trained eye, compost piles are laboratories that make plant food. I often
think why we should waste precious landfill space with something we can recycle
into nutritious soil. The recycled Composted soil will be needed in the spring
anyway. As I write this, I feel as though I am preaching to the choir. Most
organic gardeners and farmers already understand this message but the idea
still needs to be spread. I hope someday my Children’s, Children’s, Children
will get this message.
Improving the look of piles of leaves and helping them
years of season changes I have had my fair share of picking up leaves.
Ironically, here in the southwest some trees shed their leaves in the summer
heat. Either way my solution still works just fine. I found Shredding leaves
makes them compost into soil quicker. To speed up the composting process I
shovel some herbivore animal manure on top of the pile.Even a couple of bags of store bought steer
manure do the trick. Manure placed on shredded leave piles creates a heated
environment in which microbes are introduced. These microbes eat the manure and
process it. From a distance the pile looks like a plain old pile of dirt. The
winter comes and covers the pile with the normal rain, ice and snow. After the
winter cold has subsided the pile of leaves has shrunk into compost which can
be used to provide nutritious food for your vegetables, flowers and trees all
Enough is enough!
One of my
brothers currently lives in New Jersey. Autumn leaves seem to be everywhere in
this beautiful Garden State. One day while having a garden discussion with my New
Jersey brother he spoke of the backbreaking problem of too many fall leaves. I
suggested my of solution composting. I told him perhaps he should get a leaf
blower that has a reverse setting which sucks the leaves up and shreds them for
bagging. I explained my thoughts of Mother
Nature’s process but I seemed to lack the words to completely get my point
across. I’m sure he’s not alone with his yearly seasonal routine beliefs. I bet
most people think the same when it comes to composing leaves.He questioned my solution with the following
question; Because of the large amount of leaves, what happens when you get to
much compost? What am I supposed to do with all that dirt? I thought of
his position on the topic and giggled. “Too much compost you said”?What a terrific problem to have. To me having
too much compost is like having too much money. If you somehow can’t spend it
all, give it away. This concept of too much compost is unfortunately faulty and
impossible. The composts microbes see to that. They eat the carbon leaves and poop them out as
nutritious vitamin enriched organic material, carbon monoxide, hydrogen,
nitrogen and other gasses. The process makes the elements available for new plant
absorption. By default, matter cannot be created or destroyed, just change in form.
Composting is just changing used plant matter into an element form which plants can absorb.
Resting time for a Desert Garden,
Turn, Turn, Turn
When I moved
to Arizona back in the 1990’s I had to learn all about the Desert seasons. Yes
we have seasons here in the southwest! For a new climate gardener, I found it
difficult to get it through my head that summer isn’t the best time to plant a
garden in Arizona. I see some people having much success here in the summer but
they seem to apply lots of shade and massive amounts of water. Water is a
scarce resource here. After years of summers of a 110 degree plus temperatures
and piles of sun scolded, dried up vegetables I have finally got it through my
head to cut back during the summer. For me summer here is time to let my
gardens rest for a season. I still fight my desires, especially when vegetables
like sweet potatoes and chili peppers seem to thrive. But I for the most part
Preparation for the new
In the desert we can capture the most beautiful conditions
for gardening in the early spring and autumn. The winter here is optimum for growing
lettuces and brachia’s like Broccoli and cauliflower. This leaves my summer to
fill my gardens with the massive amounts of carbon matter and nitrogen needed
for gardening success. After the spring harvest all my dried up and used
vegetable plants need to be recycled. It is at this time I chop and drop all
the plants. This leaves an unsightly mess that Grandma hates. You know those Brooklyn
girls; they love thing to be tidy and groomed.My solution to this is a little smelly at first but produces unbelievable
results. It is at this time of year I take my pickup truck to the local dairy
farm and fill the back with fresh manure. Sometimes I’m lazy and go to the local
box store and pick up some bags of steer manure but the results are the same. I
spread the manure over the chopped plants and in days the old plants seem to disappear,
as well as the manure smell.
In the pictures below
I show the process.
Notice the sweet potato starts on the right side of the bed.A strange thing occurs in the following pictures.
Above you can see the manure is
applied to the chop and dropped garden waste.
This photo shown above is a
picture of the same garden a week later after returning from our family holiday
vacation. Strangely enough, the addition of the steer manure and its nitrogento the chopped garden waste
plants seems to have produced significant growth. Mind you this garden area had
little drip system water and 106 degree weather throughout the week. Eureka,
the system works!