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compost pile
Acreage sites offer great opportunities for composting, as space is not limited.

As fall is kicked into high gear, leaves are probably dropping all over your landscape, and blowing in from the neighbors. What to do with all these leaves? Several options are available, including composting. One approach is to mow them frequently and let the chopped leaves filter into the lawn. This method works well for acreages without many trees, but where leafy shade trees are abundant, this may not be sufficient to handle the load. Instead, consider building a compost pile. After all, it's the very thing most folks need to improve the soils in Nebraska.

Building a Compost Pile
You can make a compost pile out of many building materials. Concrete block, snow fence, wood pallets, chicken wire, or hardware cloth can be used. The basic theme is to have three compartments in the unit. You’ll need one to put fresh leaves, kitchen scraps, dead houseplants, coffee grounds and grass clippings into, one that has been cooking for awhile, and one for finished compost. Make these compartments side by side for easy turning and shifting of materials from one to another. On a large scale, large piles in long rows are easier to maintain.

When you start composting, mix a couple of scoops of garden soil into the fresh materials to aid in decomposition. This will provide the necessary microorganisms to start decomposing the leaves. Strive for a variety of materials in the first bin. Use half “greens” and half “browns” in the bin. “Greens” are fresh grass clippings, carrot peelings, wilted cabbage, broccoli trimmings, 

grapefruit halves, wilted vegetable vines and dying houseplants. “Browns” are sawdust, fallen leaves from trees, wood chips, stump grindings, small sticks, and dead plants. 

Never, never put meat scraps or oil products into the compost pile. These will not be easily composted, and will likely attract mice and other rodents to the pile. Turn the compost pile weekly for best results. Good results can still be achieved with less frequent turning. When finished, it can be added to the soil and increase the soil fertility and structure, resulting in healthier plants. 

For more information, refer to: Garden Compost

John Fech
John Fech
Extension Educator - Horticulture
John Fech is a horticulturist with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and certified arborist with the International Society of Arboriculture. The author of 2 books and over 200 popular and trade journal articles, he focuses his time on teaching effective landscape maintenance techniques, water conservation, diagnosing turf and ornamental problems and encouraging effective bilingual communication in the green industry. He works extensively with the media to extend the message of landscape sustainability, making over 100 television and radio appearances each year.

Contact John at:
Douglas/Sarpy County Extension
8015 W Center Road
Omaha, NE 68124-3175
(402) 444-7804

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