Katie Ashley


The autumn leaves have almost entirely fallen off the trees, but don’t fret, you can still enjoy them as a critical part of your compost. Composting is a relatively easy tool that will not only reduce the waste your household creates, but it can support your plants’ and soil health.

Although a brand new compost pile may take several months before it is ready to be used in the garden, it is worth the wait. This ancient tool which is rich in organic matter is a great source of nutrients for plants, can suppress weeds and reduce erosion among other benefits.

Ingredients that you can add to your compost are typically categorized as browns and greens. Drier, carbon-rich ingredients, or browns, provide sugar to feed microorganisms in your compost pile. Some examples of browns include dead leaves, newspaper, cardboard, twigs and bark.

More moist and nitrogen-rich ingredients, or greens, add balance to the browns. Greens include yard trimmings and kitchen scraps such as vegetables, fruits, coffee grounds, eggshells and tea bags.

Remember to never add diseased or pest-infested plant trimmings, invasive weeds, coated paper, meat or dairy products to your compost.

Ventilation can aid in accelerating the decomposition process, and you can add air by turning it with a digging fork or shovel once a week. It is also important to provide ventilation by layering smaller branches and twigs.

Decomposition occurs more quickly on smaller particles, so it’s recommended to chop items into smaller pieces before adding to your compost.

If you’re having trouble with your compost, or have any other horticulture questions, more information can be found by contacting the Jackson County Extension Office at 586-4009 or Jackson.ces.ncsu.edu or the Swain County Extension Office at 488-3848 or Swain.ces.ncsu.edu.

Katie Ashley is the NCSU horticulture extension agent for Jackson and Swain counties. She can be reached directly at Katie_Ashley@ncsu.edu.