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Composting: Alternative Methods

If you fall into the category of people who just do not have the time, space or volume of compost-able material to maintain a compost pile or bin, there are several alternatives available to you. These all fall under a heading of passive composting since they require little additional work once the organic waste has been added to the system. Passive composting is the way nature composts and is sometimes considered a lazy man's way to compost. Most proponents of passive composting would probably prefer the term intelligent to lazy. Sheet composting eliminates the compost pile as the composting materials are spread in layers on top of the ground, usually in a flower or vegetable bed. This process is slow, but if you are willing to wait, you can sit back with your feet propped up and let Mother Nature take its course. As layers decompose, additional layers can be added and the depth of the bed is built up.

This method is ideal for disposing of all the fall leaves that so many people take the time to rake up and bag for removal, you may even end up retrieving some of your neighbors' bagged leaves for additional material. Since sheet composting lends itself to any type of compost-able material, you can leave materials trimmed from your garden laying on the ground and then cover it with leaves and in the spring till this decomposed material into the garden. Why take the time and energy to haul all of your cuttings to the compost pile, only to haul the finished compost back to the garden? Some people go so far as to take their vegetable waste from the house, clear a spot in the garden, spread the vegetable waste on the ground and then cover it with a layer of leaves or mulch. Stepping on the household waste will start the breakdown of the material a little faster. If you attempt this sheet method, just be aware that composting this way may draw unwanted creatures to your yard.

Sheet composting can also be used to make new garden beds without all the usual backbreaking work. All you need is to define the bed area, then cut everything within that space down to the ground. Next, cover the cleared area with layers of newspapers, 8 to 10 pages thick. Wet the newspapers to help keep them in place and cover them with mulch or leaves to a depth of at least several inches. You can continue adding materials, such as grass or garden clippings, to the area. Depending on where you live, in 6 months to a year anything previously growing the the area will be gone, weeds, roots and all. What you have left is soil rich in organic materials ready for planting.

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