Time To Make Compost: How do you get material for your compost pile?

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Name: Greg Bogard
Winston-Salem, NC (Zone 7a)
Oct 28, 2017 7:01 PM CST
When I lived north of the county border in the city of Winston-Salem I could call the city sanitation department and ask them for leaves this time of the year. Over the course of four years they dumped eight loads of leaves that they had collected on my 50' x 70' garden. Each pile was approx. 10' wide by 15' long by 6'to7' tall initially. On each pile I dumped two 40# bags of ammonium nitrate and five bags of powdered limestone. The ammonium nitrate supplied the nitrogen that the bacteria that breaks down the leaves with the food to do it. The limestone neutralized the acids given off in the process. The result was the best garden soil in the region.
Many local governments, both city/town, and county collect leaves each Fall and either take them to a special place to be placed, or distribute them directly to the residents. If you do a little research into your local government---you may discover a goldmine of material to use in your gardening. Ammonium nitrate is no longer available (thanks loads Timothy McVeigh)---but High nitrogen, low or no anything else fertilizer will do the same thing. If left entirely to Nature, those piles would have taken the entire five years to break down. With the additives---they were reduced to humus in two.
If your local municipality does not share the leaves with the public---badger them to do so. Get the local garden clubs involved. They will listen if enough taxpayers are all saying the same thing. The county that I presently live in has an organics waste dump where all organic waste (leaves, wood chips from landscapers, grass clippings, etc., etc.) are taken. It is the law to do so. If they catch you dumping it into the landfill for normal garbage---there is a stiff fine. They have a crew of people who use a front-end loader to turn the piles so they break down faster. Residents are welcome to come with their pickup trucks, trailers, etc. and they will dump a scoop in your transport to take home for your garden. There is a little garbage that shows up from litterbugs, but it is easy to pick out. I grow daylilies in large plastic pots and Tidycat litter plastic buckets. I fill these 2/3rds full of compost followed by 1/3 of great potting soil. The plants do very well in this. I also grow in in-ground beds. The base of the beds is always a generous pile of compost topped with good soil.
There is nothing better to grow in than leaf mold...... Check it out.
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