Written by Tolly Beck
Tolly Beck is the horticulturist at Lasdon Park and Arboretum in Westchester County. She was formerly a horticulture educator for New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Rockland, NY.
Fall is a great time of year to think about recycling yard waste. If you have too many leaves in your yard to think about leaving them in place, composting is always a good option. Composting can be as simple as creating an out- of -the -way place to create a pile of yard debris that you can add to throughout the season. As organic matter is added to the pile it acts as food for bacteria, fungi and other organisms and it begins to break down. When decomposition reaches its’ final stages it leaves behind a rich, crumbly, soil-like material known as compost (or gardeners’ black gold). Compost is a great organic amendment for soil which adds nutrients and provides needed texture.
To help speed up the process of decomposition, it is helpful to reduce the size of whatever organic material is to be added to the pile. If you are adding annuals that are finished for the season, cut the stems up in smaller pieces. Large leaves like maples can be run over with a lawn mower a few times to reduce their size before adding them to your compost pile. Pumpkins left over from Halloween or fall decorations can also be cut into smaller pieces and put in the compost pile. They will decompose along with your fall leaves and other garden debris. Finished compost is at the bottom of the compost pile and can be used wherever needed.
You can create an open enclosure for your compost pile using fencing if you would like to keep things neater. Bins are also available for this purpose. Whatever compost style you choose you will eventually be rewarded when you can add that rich compost to your garden soil- all for free. Recycling in nature benefits both you and the environment.