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COMPOST LEAVES THIS FALL TO PROTECT AIR QUALITY AND ENRICH YOUR LAWN AND GARDEN
September 28, 2010
MADISON - As leaves start to fall across Wisconsin, state natural resources officials are reminding people that autumn is an excellent time to start composting or improve a home compost pile. Composting can help residents save money on fertilizer, save municipalities money on yard waste collection and protect the state's air quality.
Composting is much better for the environment than burning leaves, branches, weeds and other yard materials.
"Burning yard waste can cause health problems for your family and neighbors, pollute soil and water, and start wildfires," says Kate Cooper, recycling and solid waste section chief for the Department of Natural Resources Waste and Materials Management Program.
State air quality and fire control rules regulate the burning of yard materials in Wisconsin, and a growing number of communities have local rules in place that restrict or completely prohibit burning yard materials.
Composting leaves, grass clippings and branches puts them to good use. "Composting not only helps keep our air clean and prevents wildfires, but the compost itself is a wonderful, valuable product." Cooper says.
Composted yard materials keep soil healthy and provide nutrients for lawns and gardens, reducing the need for fertilizers and pesticides. Urban residents who don't compost on their own property often have access to a community compost site.
State law bans yard materials from landfills, but there are a number of ways residents can manage leaves and other compostable materials in their back yard or garden.
Here are a few tips for composting or reusing yard materials:
- Keep it simple. Leaves make great mulch to be used now, or in the spring. Mow leaves and grass together and leave the finely chopped material on your lawn. Ground leaves can also be folded into garden beds to add organic material and soil structure. If you would rather compost your leaves, there are many easy structures you can build to start the composting process. Search "compost bin" online for suggestions.
- Mix it up. The key to good compost is having a mix of "browns" (fallen leaves, dead plants, coffee grounds and small branches) and "greens" (grass clippings, green plants and vegetable food scraps).
- Supply the basics. Compost needs fresh air and water to help microbes break the material down and prevent odors. Rainfall and snow may provide enough moisture for an uncovered compost pile, but if your bin has a cover, add some water occasionally. Turn the compost to make sure air gets mixed in throughout.
- Expand your horizons. Once you get started with yard materials, you can add raw fruit and vegetable scraps and coffee grounds and filters to your compost bin. Avoid attracting animals by using a covered bin and covering fresh food scraps with a thin layer of leaves or soil. Using earthworms to compost food scraps indoors, a method called "vermicomposting," is a good option for urban residents. "Feeding food scraps to worms has been a popular project in Wisconsin schools for years. Now some university campuses are experimenting with larger scale vermicomposting," says Cooper. Local ordinances may apply to home composting. Contact your local officials to learn more.
More information on home composting and vermicomposting is available on the DNR Web site and on the UW-Extension website (exit DNR: search publications for "composting").
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Kate Cooper - (608) 267-3133
Last Revised: Tuesday, September 28, 2010