compost bin made from recycled fencing materials (26380 bytes)

Good Earth Gardening

By Susie Lewis, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Master Gardener, Denver County

Keeping up with mowing chores this spring taxed even the most conscientious lawn keeper. Abundant rains and ideal bluegrass growing temperatures made grass mowing every five days a necessity, if clippings were to be left on the lawn as recommended.

For those of us whose schedules didn't allow ducking in between rains to mow this frequently, mowing every seven days often meant catching clippings. This harvest of grass clippings makes the perfect base for composting.

Denver Recycles estimates that approximately 50 percent of the waste dumped in the trash is yard waste - leaves and grass clippings. Trash volume from this spring's clipping harvest must surely have set a record, even though it was 100 percent recyclable. When converted into compost at home, yard waste has tremendous soil improving power.

While composting often is made to sound like backyard alchemy, it's really simple. All you need are greens and browns - green, fresh plants such as grass clippings, and brown, dried plants such as fall leaves raked from between your shrubs. Mix them together using more of the lighter leaves than grass clippings, stir once in a while and in 30 to 45 days you have compost.

If you're a person who wants to read more or see and feel compost before trying it, check out these two sources of help. For those who want to learn by reading, call your Colorado State University Cooperative Extension office and request a no-cost fact sheets, "Composting Yard Waste" and the brand new "Eliminate grass clipping collection for EASY lawnmowing."

The Denver Backyard Composting Demonstration site at the Gove Community Garden is the place to experience composting first hand. Located at 13th Ave. and Colorado Blvd., the site is staffed on Saturdays from 8 A.M. - 2 P.M., and Wednesdays from 5 P.M. to dusk. You can see, smell and touch compost in all stages of breakdown from fresh yard waste to finished compost product.

Help with questions and troubleshooting your home composting efforts also is available from the Master Composter staff, community people trained through the joint efforts of Denver Recycles, Gove School and Colorado State Cooperative Extension. If composting isn't your idea of home recreation, you still can find ways to be kind to the environment.

  • Leave grass clippings on the lawn whenever possible.

  • Look for a neighbor who has a compost bin and offer your yard wastes to them. After all, one person's trash is another's treasure!

  • Watch for the fall leaf collection drive in your city, called "Leaf Drop" in Denver. While you won't get the benefits of improving your garden soil if you don't try home composting, participating with neighbors or your city in composting yard waste will recycle plant materials the way nature intended, as compost for soil improvement.

Photograph courtesy of Judy Sedbrook, taken at Gove Community Garden composting demonstration site.

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Date last revised: 01/05/2010