Autumn provides ample brown material for composting, and turning food scraps into fertilizer gives you everything you need to get a jump start on soil enrichment before the frost sets in. Whether you are already skilled at composting and want to make the most of the nutrients you save or are just starting out, the results can make a major difference in the health of your lawn or garden. Fall and winter composting ensures that your garden is ready to shine the next year, and it makes it simple to recycle and reuse organic material in an eco-friendly manner.
Preparing the Soil
If you already have a home composter setup or an outdoors composting bin, remember to keep the balance of green and brown materials — from the kitchen and the yard respectively — at about an even 50/50 blend. There are a few ways to speed up the composting process, from shredding and heating the materials to agitating regularly, but all fertilizer creation takes time, and it’s best to get an early start in the fall for plenty of prep time.
As the compost matures, try using a garden tiller to aerate the soil and work the material into the ground. Adding nutrients during the fall months can promote faster and healthier growth in spring, but preparation should end before the first snows fall. Adding more nutrients during the cold winter months can actually promote mold and undesirable decomposition of roots or bulbs, making it a better idea to save compost for later use when the ground starts freezing.
Planting in autumn is only natural, as it is harvest season when the fruits drop and wildflowers spread seeds abundantly. Once your soil is ready, begin planting the seeds for next year’s blossoming flowers. Annuals and perennials both benefit from early planting before the ground hardens. The natural hardening and packing of the soil during the winter months provides added protection against scavenging animals and freezing winds.
Protect the Ground
It’s entirely likely that you’ll end up with far more brown matter during the fall season than your kitchen scraps, grasses and other green materials can match. Avoid adding too much brown material to your compost mix, and instead use these nature-made tools to keep the ground safe and ward off unwanted mold or mildew that can crop up when the ground freezes and materials break down on the frozen surface.
Protect the ground in your planting beds as well as lawn areas with layers of mulched brown materials. Pine needles and similar yard waste provides ample protection against both frost and mildew throughout the winter months as the needles and bark do not break down easily.
Winter and fall don’t necessarily mean an end to your efforts composting at home. The materials produced naturally during this time can help ensure the ground has all the nutrients and protection it needs to weather the snowy seasons and spring back when the warm weather returns. Taking the time to get the right mix of materials and focusing on composting early and protecting the ground as the seasons change can make a real difference the next year.
Written by Avery Phillips for EarthTalk.
Featured image provided by Justin Ha