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Thursday, Sept. 23, 2004 12:51 pm

Prairie notes 9-23-04

Maybe it's just me, but fall 2004 closed in a little faster than the calendar suggests. If you haven't done so already, now is the time to organize your fall composting project to deal with the annual lowerin' of the leaves.

If the ultimate goal is to return the compost to your yard as next year's fertilizer, consider simply shredding the leaves with your mower and letting the mix of green grass and dry leaves (nitrogen and carbon) to compost in situ.

If that idea doesn't appeal to you or sounds too much like the rarely successful BOTTN (Blow Over to the Neighbors) plan, or if you need finished compost for the garden next spring, now is the time to select a site and decide on a course of action.

Plan 1. Rake up everything into a pile and forget it. It'll all become soil again eventually.

Plan 2. Mix the green and the brown together about 20-1, keep the pile moist, and turn it every week or so. It'll be soil again, but a lot quicker.

Plan 3. Get fancy. You can produce high-quality natural fertilizer by layering the pile of leaves and clippings with soil (with a bit of lime sprinkled in) and some secret ingredients that'll really get your garden producing.

Greensand and kelp meal are great for adding trace minerals and nutrients and increasing biological activity in the soil. Additional micro- and macronutrients can be added through the addition of things such as bone meal, rock phosphate, sulfate of potash, and feather meal, just to mention a few. Got a few bales of old, moldy alfalfa hay that's no longer suitable for animal feed? Adding the hay is a cheap way to increase nutrients (and volume) and really get the pile cookin'.

If you happen to have a soil test and know what plants you'll be feeding next spring, you can create the perfect compost concoction this fall.

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