Weekend Project: Make and Use Compost

Turn grass clippings and kitchen scraps into a gardener's dream soil.

Making compost is one of the smartest, most productive things you can do as a gardener. You'll turn yard and kitchen waste into rich, organic matter that's a valuable soil amendment for your garden and yard. You'll also reduce your garbage output, and help meet widespread restrictions now imposed for landfills. Contrary to common thought, a compost pile doesn't smell bad, attract pests, or create an eyesore.

As a natural process, compost happens when vegetative waste decomposes within weeks into fertile humus. Start by layering leaves, grass clippings, weeds, kitchen scraps (no meat, bones, or fat) and topsoil in a bin made for composting or in a pile on the ground. Water the pile if it is dry and doesn't decompose. Add leaves if it is too wet or starts to smell sour. Turn the pile once a season to speed decomposition.

Use compost in beds: Use rich, fertile compost as food for your garden's soil, to improve drainage and support healthy plant growth. Simply shovel the compost into garden beds and work it into the soil, using a garden rake. If you're lucky enough to make loads of compost -- or have access to a municipal source -- add wheelbarrows full of it to your garden each spring and fall. You'll build your soil's fertility as well as its water holding capacity.

Improve your soil: When building new beds or preparing a garden for planting, first work compost into the soil. Spread 2- to 4-inch layer of compost on the dry garden soil and till it in. Sprinkle compost on the lawn to feed it, too.

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