East Texas Ag News: Ag extension agent shares composting tips

East Texas Ag News: Ag extension agent shares composting tips
(Source: Texasx A&M AgriLife Extension Service Facebook page)

From Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

EAST TEXAS, TX (News Release) - I’m loving this fall weather. It’s cooler, we are getting more rain, and the leaves (at least at my house) are just beginning to fall.

Looking ahead, I’ll have a tremendous amount of leaves around my yard to contend with. We are blessed with several mature oaks.

Composting is an excellent way to utilize your landscape and food “waste” to put back into your landscape for tremendous use.

Historians don’t exactly know when composting first started. There are clay tablets dating back 1,000 years before the time of Moses that mention using manure on crops. There is abundant evidence that the Greeks, Romans, and all the tribes of Israel knew of compost. Native Americans and early European settlers mentioned it. One composting recipe from that era suggested mixing “one fish to 10 parts muck.”

Even our farming founding fathers such as George Washington, James Madison, and Thomas Jefferson made compost as well as promoted its use.

Now if you don’t currently have a composting bin of some kind, let me encourage you start one. There are lots of different ways to build one with a variety of aesthetics and expense.

The simplest way is to just pile it up. Nothing fancy at all. In fact, this is the way that I’ve done mine over the years. It’s out of the way and can grow and change as needed. This method ranks pretty low on the “attractive scale” but HGTV has been calling on me either.

Another option is to make a circular holding unit made from wire. The smaller ones can be as small as three feet in diameter. You’ll need a 10-foot length of 36-inch-wide hardware cloth or chicken wire to achieve the three feet minimum diameter. When it gets full you can easily lift your wire bin to remove the composted material or put it right beside the old location to remix your compost.

On a larger scale, my parents had a circular wire bin that must have been at least 10 feet across with an opening to push in the wheelbarrow and add to the growing pile around the inside perimeter. The same wire material can be used, but for a 10-foot diameter circle, you’ll need a 32-foot length of wire plus a a few posts for the opening and to strengthen the standing wire screen around the circumference.

Square bins are certainly the most photographed and perhaps attractive solution. For smaller compost bins, you could put four pallets together- three if you leave the front open. If you look up Google or Pinterest for other square bin composting ideas, you’ll often see the three-bin system. This is indeed a better system and offer more options.

Certainly, the most expensive options are the round, tumbler composting containers. I’ve seen one for just shy of $500 that only got a 3.5-star rating from 47 product reviews. You can get them cheaper, but I just cannot help but think we lose much of the simplicity of letting our organic material break down in a simpler fashion.

But whichever method you chose, I do hope you chose to compost. Find a convenient location that is not in the way of other landscape attractions. Don’t get in a rush, as it’ll take months to be ready and those leaves haven’t even started falling heavily.

We’ll talk later about what materials will go in it.

Cary Sims is the County Extension Agent for agriculture and natural resources for Angelina County. His email address is cw-sims@tamu.edu

Educational programs of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service are open to all people without regard to race, color, sex, disability, religion, age, national origin, genetic information or veteran status. The Texas A&M University System, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the County Commissioners Courts of Texas Cooperating.