A lot of gardens and gardeners are winding down for the winter. In my yard, the asparagus bed is dormant and, even though I have a few patches of cool weather crops coming along, there are lots of spaces that I have covered with mulch for the winter.
One really important crop for this season, though, is one I won’t be eating directly. It is the compost that I will be “feeding” the soil with in the spring. In heavy clay soils like those here in north Georgia, gardens need a pretty steady diet of organic matter to produce good crops of vegetables. If I had to buy all the organic matter I use, I would be broke in a hurry, so I scrounge as much organic matter as I can when it is available – hence, the compost.
This is a great season for making compost, for me anyway, because this is the time of year when my neighbors bag the fallen leaves in their yards and set the bags out for the trash haulers. It isn’t hard to walk up the street and bring back a bag or two when I see them. My neighbor across the street saves me some work by having her boys bring her yard’s leaves over for me. She can skip the bags that way.
Leaves in a big pile on their own will take longer than one winter to break down into crumbly compost. That is partly due to the lower temperatures in winter that slow decomposition, but it is largely due to the low nitrogen content of fallen leaves. Speeding up the compost-making requires layering in some nitrogen, and that can take the form of coffee grounds (from regular stops at a Starbucks), kitchen scraps, or whatever other source is handy.
University of Georgia’s “Ag Publications Search” provides a link to a publication on Composting and Mulching (you’ll need to choose whether to see the html or the pdf version) that explains what to do for people who’ve not made their own compost before, but the important thing is to start, and now is a good time.