LiveGreen: Not too early to prep for spring

With cold weather approaching, you might think that it would be time to put the compost pile to bed for winter. But compost, like rust, never sleeps. It just slows down.

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by Anne Rivas

Most households, including mine, still produce compostable materials through the winter — maybe even more materials as people make soups and drink more coffee. This winter, I will be using three different methods of composting — sheet mulching, the pallet bin, and a new compost tumbler. (I’ll report results in the spring.)

In my continuing battle with the lawn, my next salvo will be to sheet-mulch a large section of it into submission — er, a garden — over the winter. My goal is to eventually have just a little turf grass for accents to set off large romantic swaths of garden. Maybe I’m living in fantasyland, but it seems like all I’ve done since the last snow is mow the dang lawn, and I’m tired of it.

Meanwhile, a burrowing animal has built runways, and rabbits have dug dens all over the back yard. I know planting gardens won’t stop the burrowing or bunny-breeding, but I enjoy planting, mulching and weeding much more than mowing.

Sheet mulching will give me a jump-start on my spring gardening. I will layer finished compost from my pallet bin, followed by cardboard, dirt, kitchen scraps and shredded leaves, top it with bark mulch, and let it all decompose over the winter. In my perfect world, the cardboard will kill the grass while freeze/thaw cycles and worms will turn the layers into fertile soil ready for planting in the spring.

Using the finished compost from the pallet bin makes room for new stuff, and I’ll leave a little finished compost in the center of the new pile in the bin, insulating it with leaves, straw, cardboard and newspapers. Shredding materials before adding them this winter will help them break down faster. For the past month I’ve chopped garbage to put in the tumbler, hoping to have a batch of finished compost in the spring.

I’ve gathered seeds that need a period of cold to germinate, and will plant them in pots this fall to winter outside. I’ll let you know how that goes. I’m dreaming of lots of little seedlings to plant in my new garden next spring. These fantasies have sprouted and grown during the quality time I’ve spent with my lawn mower.