The key to successful composting is maintaining a healthy balance of nitrogen-rich “green” material and carbon-rich “brown” material. For the GEOBIN® Composter, we recommend a carbon to nitrogen ratio of 3:1. During the winter, spring, and summer months, many people find themselves with plenty of “green” material, like food scraps and grass clippings, but they do not have enough “brown” material. Carbon is the energy source for the compost pile and gives the composting microorganisms life inside the compost bin. Without the presence of carbon to facilitate decomposition, food waste rots, causing smelly compost and unwelcome pests.
Fall is a great time to compost because there’s an abundance of both green and brown material to add to your bin. Between fall garden clean up and dry leaves, you’ll have plenty of carbon-rich organic material to keep your compost balanced.
Why You Should Compost
When food waste ends up in landfills, the lack of air in the environment causes the decaying matter to produce methane gas—a greenhouse gas roughly 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a heat-trapping gas.
In addition to carbon and nitrogen, a successful compost pile requires moisture and air. When you compost at home, you’re creating an ideal environment for organic waste to properly decompose. Composting helps the environment and provides you with nutrient-rich fertilizer for your garden. Here are some tips to help guide you through your fall composting journey.
Fall Composting Tips
1. Compost Fall Leaves
As the days grow shorter and temperatures begin to drop, so will the leaves from deciduous trees. While it can be an unpopular chore to rake and collect fallen leaves, it helps to know that your compost will love them. Wait until they’re brown and dry, then layer them into your pile. Dry leaves are an excellent source of carbon for your compost. To avoid matting, add thin layers of grass clippings to your compost.
2. Store Dry Leaves to Add to Compost Later
It’s helpful to have a reserve of dry leaves to add to your compost during the months when it’s more difficult to source carbon-rich materials. You can store leaves in a dedicated bin and draw from it as needed. Like any organic matter, leaves will eventually start to break down, but this will take a long time without the presence of nitrogen.
3. A Healthy Garden Starts with Healthy Soil
As the growing season comes to an end, you’ll want to clean up your garden and get it ready for next year. Remove healthy plant material and add it to your compost bin. You should shred or break up the plant material into smaller pieces to facilitate decomposition. Unless you’re hot composting, you’ll want to avoid adding diseased plants to your bin. Those plants should be thrown away or burned, depending on what’s permitted where you live.
If you have finished or partially decomposed compost, add it to your empty garden bed before the ground freezes. We recommend using a garden fork to break up the soil, then adding a 3 to 4-inch layer of compost.
4. Monitor Moisture Levels of Your Compost
Increased rainfall during the fall months can cause your compost to get too wet. You want your compost pile to be moist, like a squeezed-out sponge. If it gets too wet, it will lack the aeration required to properly decompose the organic material and start to smell like rotten eggs. You can remedy this by mixing in more brown material to soak up excess moisture. We recommend dry leaves, cardboard, or sawdust.
5. Turn Jack-O’-Lanterns into Great Compost
Every year, 1 billion pounds of pumpkins get thrown away and end up in America’s landfills. Like other food waste, pumpkins left to rot in landfills will produce methane gas. Pumpkins are a great addition to your compost pile, so instead of tossing them in the trash, smash them up and incorporate them into your pile.
For more composting tips and tricks, check out our Guide to Backyard Composting.