Mary Leigh Oliver

Composting is often associated with the hot, summer months. Contrary to popular belief, composting is a process that continues through every season in Alabama, whether in a backyard bin or a woodland forest.

Composting year-round diminishes waste sent to landfills, as well as benefitting the backyard.

It’s important to compost year-round to support the population of micro-organisms in the compost pile. According to Kerry Smith, the Alabama Extension home grounds team co-leader, composting is an aerobic process that decomposes yard waste and kitchen scraps. The micro-organisms involved in this process require a balance of air, water, carbon and nitrogen. These ingredients fuel the decomposition process. With ongoing additions to the compost pile through every season, micro-organisms are able to continue working and reproducing.

Winter

In existing compost piles or bins, decomposition will be slower in cooler weather but it will not stop.

“Especially in Alabama, micro-organisms can continue to break down compost because of the slightly warmer temperatures of our winters,” Smith said.

However, if there are multiple days below freezing, the composting process may come to a complete stop. As long as temperatures remain above freezing, the process will continue to break down materials within the pile or bin.

Spring

During the spring, as the temperatures continue to rise from winter, the compost will pick up a more efficient pace. If a compost pile has been breaking down since the winter, it may be ready for use in spring gardens. Once the compost has been used, refill the bin and continue the cycle.

Summer

The hot summer temperatures are perfect to fully cook down compost. This is also the perfect time to utilize the compost. As rain becomes less frequent, use the moist compost to add moisture to flower beds.

“It is crucial to keep compost piles moist as they break down,” Smith said. “Remember those critical ingredients for the microorganisms to thrive.”

Also, while summer temperatures in the South can reach excruciatingly high degrees, it is important to turn the pile. This will prevent overheating, add aeration and speed up the entire process. Summer is the time to keep the composting process in proper condition.

Fall

Fall is the ideal time to start a compost pile. Falling leaves, small limbs and other plant debris make a perfect foundation for a compost pile.

“Brown leaves add carbon that will supply needed energy for the micro-organisms to sustain the composting process,” Smith said.

Whether a new composter or a seasoned gardener who has been composting for years, continue to shrink municipal yard waste throughout every season.

More Info

For more information on composting, check out the Alabama Extension publication Backyard Composting that is available on the Alabama Extension website, www.aces.edu.

People can reach the Marshall County Extension Office at (256) 582-2009. The can also stay up to date on the latest Extension happenings in the county by subscribing to the Marshall County Extension Newsletter. The newsletter is sent out at the beginning of each month. You can subscribe at: www.aces.edu/go/marshallnews

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