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Composting: Recycling Your Lawn and Garden Clippings

by Karen Lawson, All About Lawns Columnist

Starting a compost heap is easy, requires little specialized equipment, and provides organic nutrients for your lawn and garden. You may want to build an enclosure for your compost, but don't store it in a container without air circulation. To get started, you'll need a wheelbarrow, a pitchfork, and gardening gloves. Basic garden tools including a leaf rake, a shovel, and a garden hose are useful as well.

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Getting Started: Assembling Your Compost Heap
The Ohio State University Extension recommends the following layering sequence for your compost heap:

  1. Place several inches of chipped brush or other course plant material on bare soil. This allows air to flow through the bottom layers of the compost.
  2. Add several inches of damp leaves, lawn clippings, and garden waste.
  3. You'll want to introduce microorganisms to your compost heap; this is easily done by adding an inch or so of garden soil on top of the clippings. You can also buy earthworms and prepackaged microorganisms from garden supply centers.
  4. Add a couple of inches of steer manure, which provides nitrogen to the microorganisms. If manure isn't available, you can use one pound of urea fertilizer or ten pounds of composted chicken manure (this is available in retail lawn and garden supply stores) per square yard of compost material. Add some water if the manure is very dry, but avoid too much moisture; this can cause problems and create a foul odor. Be considerate of your neighbors and any nuisance ordinances when using the more "aromatic" organics.

Repeat layers as desired. In a few days, your compost heap should reach a temperature of about 140 degrees F. Keep your compost heap damp, but not soggy. In a couple of weeks, thoroughly turn the heap and make sure that the former center of the compost pile is distributed to the outer layers. Depending on your climate, your compost may need to be dampened and/or turned more frequently.

It's important to plan composting to coincide with fertilizing your lawn and garden. Start a compost heap in spring for fall use, and another during fall for spring. Composting provides recycling opportunities for lawn clippings and other yard waste while reducing use of potentially toxic chemicals.

Ohio State University Extension: Composting at Home

About the Author
Karen Lawson is a freelance writer with an avid interest in gardening and horticulture. She earned BA and MA degrees in English from the University of Nevada, Reno.

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