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Approaching Autumn: Making the Most of Nature’s Bounty - and Yours

Autumn’s in the air—we’re being literal here. Something about the quality of the air changes, and you can just taste that summer’s soon to be a thing of the past.

But there are other signs, too, depending on your hemisphere. The sun’s glancing rays begin to glance a little earlier, and start to recede by the time dinner’s finished. The kiddos are back in school, and college students can no longer afford to bare quite as much summer skin.

But Nature displays signs of the coming season most flagrantly, as the trees outside begin to golden, with bright yellows, oranges and reds replacing summer greenery. Eventually, the trees go brown, and yards everywhere brim with fallen leaves.

What many don’t realize is there’s a great, natural way to turn a seemingly pesky inconvenience into a great, environmentally-friendly boon. Make the most of the season’s bounty: create a compost pile.

More than a Fall Chore
Trees don’t shed their leaves simply because they don’t have anything better to do. Given the right circumstances, fallen leaves will eventually break down into humus. Humus is moist, organic matter chock-full of the nutrients that help plant life flourish.

Once broken down into humus, leaves can be used in soil to create a rich environment for plant life. This compost can act as a natural, manure-free fertilizer for your lawn, flowerbed or community garden. Isn’t nature great?

Instead of the sinking guilt you get from blowing leaves into your neighbor’s yard each year, this time you’ll know you created growth from stuff that would take up premium space in the landfill, decomposing slowly in suboptimal conditions.

How to Build Your Compost Pile
The fundamentals of building a compost pile aren’t difficult to grasp. Essentially, the goal is to accelerate the natural decomposition process, which requires a few things.

First, you need to find a good balance. To produce good compost, the microorganisms at work need some carbon-rich material to break down: our fallen leaves, twigs, wood chips, cardboard and straw work well here. You’ll also need nitrogen-rich material, such as fertilizer, vegetables and manure, to foster microbe life.

Secondly, compost needs exposure to air and water to decompose efficiently. The pile will work best if water and air can easily pass through it. The best way to do this with your autumn leaves is to put them through a leaf shredder or a rotary mower. This way, you’ll increase the organic matter’s surface area, and speed up decomposition.

Thirdly, you’ll need to layer your pile. Treat your compost pile like lasagna: even layers, repeating one after another. Put down an initial layer of leaves and other carbon-rich material, and then add a layer of nitrogen-based material on top. Cover that layer with soil, and repeat.

From Waste to Wealth
Now that you’re making use of nature’s power and have the cleanest, healthiest lawn in the neighborhood to boot, you can think of other ways to economize this fall.

Significant amounts of household waste can be harvested for your compost pile. You can finally make use of those watermelon rinds, old romaine, and coffee grinds. And after Halloween, why not grab that old pumpkin husk before it decays on your doorstep? It belongs with the compost pile.

Your new compost pile can reduce yard waste as much as seventy-five percent, freeing up landfills. Humus acts as fertilizer, promoting a healthy yard and nutrient-rich soil for plant life and gardening.

So as September 22nd draws near on your calendar, declaring the season’s eventual, official turning point, choose to invest in your yard and the greater environment by making use of what nature’s already given you.