Bird's Nest Composting

Gardens and yards produce an amazing amount of plant tissue. You dont often realize just how much until this time of year when you start to haul it away. But most of that plant tissue is a valuable resource that can be recycled into compost.

We have an excellent factsheet available at our offices called Home Composting that covers all the steps involved. Call our office for a free copy or visit our local website to download the factsheet: http://ecgardening.cornell.edu and click on factsheets then Home Composting.

Build a Birds Nest
Sunflowers, hollyhocks and sweet corn are some of my favorite plants to grow but dealing with their tough, woody stalks at the end of the year can be quite a challenge. If you have a lot of these stalks, try building a birds nest compost pile this fall.

Stack up the stalks like Lincoln logs to form the sides of your bin. You goal is to have a bin about 3 by 3 feet so bend the stalks at right angles to make them fit and layer them up until the walls are about 2 feet high. Add the finer textured materials from your yard and garden, along with your usual food scraps from the kitchen and a shovelful of soil every now and then. When you fill up this 2 foot high nest add more stalks to build up the walls another 2 feet.

The first year I did this I started by building my bin 4 feet tall before adding anything but the walls were a little unstable. By building and filling the bin (or nest) in stages I found the overall result was a lot stronger.

This all-natural bin is quite attractive especially at first and over a couple of years the entire thing decomposes, walls and all. It helps to keep adding more materials to the center of the bin as they decompose and shrink, the plant stalk walls take much longer to break down but they do, eventually.

Brown Gold
And why should you go to all this trouble of gathering, stacking, chipping and mixing? Because the end product, home-made compost, is one of the best things you can add to any garden soil. Its a free source of organic matter and recycles what might be seen as yard waste into something gardeners can never get enough of: compost.

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