Fall Cleanup: The Free, Easy, and Earth-Friendly Way

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Foliage season is just about upon the Northeast. The leaves will surely be pretty, and the raking, blowing, bagging, and lugging waste to the curb are sure to bring on aching backs. But is there is a better way to clean up your yard than brown-bagging it.

Let nature take over and compost it all, with no bags to worry about. Composting works with leaves, yard clippings, vegetable peelings, and fallen branches and twigs alike. Branches never seem to fit in the brown waste bags anyway; they always wind up popping a hole in the bag, making a mess of things.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a decent primer on autumn composting. Composting saves you the cost of bags and the time it takes to put leaves and clippings inside those bags, and it also provides you with great soil (that you don’t have to buy) for your garden come springtime. Creating a composting area is pretty straightforward. You basically make a pile of organic material. From the AJC:

DeKalb County Extension Service agent Gary Peiffer offers a slightly more scientific approach to composting.

“You can make a pile of leaves and just leave it there. It’s going to break down anyway; but if you make sure it gets moisture, build it in the right way and spend a little time turning it, you’ll help the process along,” he said.

As Davis demonstrates, a compost pile can do more than deal with leaves. It also can include “green” materials such as vegetable waste, eggshells and lawn and garden clippings.

“A well-constructed compost pile should be in the sun and be about 3 feet square and tall. First, put down a layer of 6 or 8 inches of green material, and then add a couple of inches of brown material like twigs, straw, hay, dried leaves, even newspaper. Then add a thin layer of soil, which helps introduce microorganisms into your pile. Moisten it just a little, and then continue building up the layers,” Peiffer said.

The key is to build up the right ratio so the pile will start to heat up inside. That’s what breaks down the material quickly. Turn the pile once a month, and the compost should be ready in two to four months.