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Volume 15, Issue 39 ~ September 27 - October 3, 2007

Composting’s a Job for the Fall

Brew a rich soil as you get rid of dead plants

Fall is a great time for starting a compost pile. A compost pile gives you a place to dispose of weeds and dead plants, fallen leaves and other debris that accumulates in your landscape.

Home gardeners can set up a compost bin on any well-drained plot of ground. Never place a compost pile where water collects, however, because your compost will grow fungus.

If you don’t like the idea of having a compost pile but would like to compost, consider purchasing a drum composter mounted on a frame with a crank to turn the drum, thus cooking the compost faster. There are even ball composters made of vinyl that can be rolled around the yard. They are great if you have children; they can role the big ball, helping mix and aerate the waste for faster decomposition.

Whether you use a pile, a bin or a drum composter, the secret to success is keeping the compost moist. Periodically mix the pile to promote aeration. Pile on green and brown organic waste to promote rapid growth of the microorganisms that do the decomposing. Those microorganisms live in garden soils; generally enough soil clings to roots of weeds and discarded plants to inoculate most compost piles.

Weekly additions of vegetable trimmings, garden waste — and, yes, those discarded crab shells and viscera — make a rich variety. For microorganisms to function at their maximum capacity, they need nitrogen from green vegetable matter, and crab chum as well as carbon from dried leaves, twigs, plant stems and even shredded paper. When adding new raw materials, remember that small particles of organic waste compost faster than large particles.

A well-managed compost pile will not create odor, nor will it attract rodents. It will bring great rewards when the compost is spread in the garden or used in potting soil for houseplants. And when you compost, you help to reduce the amount of solid waste that has to be dumped in landfills. The less each of us contributes to landfill volume, the better we do at helping manage our environment.

Honeybees in Trees

Q I have what I believe is a nest of honeybees in a tree. Should I have this seen by an expert to advise me of any intervention that may promote their survival?

–Pat Willis, by email

A I suggest that you call Bob Corey, a former state bee inspector who raises honey bees in Dunkirk. Reach him at 301-855-8431.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at [email protected]. All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.

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