The air is getting colder and we can see and smell fall just around the corner. With the change of season, the plants that grew so well over the spring and summer are now starting to make preparations against winter’s cold breath.
The trees are dropping their leaves: the ‘factories’ that produced new growth, another ring on the tree. The flowers are using their last energy to ripen the seeds for next year’s plants. We see the lush summer, the green landscape, slowly change to the rich fall shades of red, yellow and brown.
In the forests and open fields, all this organic material that once drew nutrients and water from the ground, gases from the air and light from the sun, fall to the ground. This material provides insulation against the cold for the roots and seeds, and food and shelter for creatures like mice and rabbits which are active over the winter.
In the spring, creatures large and small will start to break down the matter left from the previous year’s growing season. It is a process as old as life itself, where living things go back to their original elements, providing food for the next generations.
In our own yards, we watch the same changes taking place. With the first frost, the leaves on our shade trees start to turn colour and fall to the ground. The flowers that brightened our landscape over the summer are beginning to wither and turn brown. The cycle that is so vital in the forests and fields to keep nutrients in the soil available for future growth is also important in our gardens.
In our yards, dead leaves and plants can be recycled by a process called “composting.” This word was created to describe the natural way in which we can transform organic waste into a useful product. Composting can take place in a commercial or homemade composter, or just a pile in your backyard. It needs food, air and water to work, just like any other living organism or system.
Food is the organic waste from your home and garden. A mix of three parts brown material (dead, chopped leaves and plants) and one part green material (vegetable and fruit scraps or grass) provide the best mix for your composter. In the fall, save bags of dry, chopped leaves (preferably not oak or walnut) to put in your composter over the year. Don’t add cooked food or anything that comes from animals (meat, bones, etc.)
Provide water for the bugs and other creatures eating the material. (It should be about as damp as a wrung-out sponge.) Add water by the pail or hose, or leave the composter’s lid off when it rains.
Add air by stirring the composter periodically. Commercial composters have air holes on the sides; homemade units should incorporate this feature into their construction.
For more information on this topic or any other nature-related subject, contact us.
Written by Brenda Lorenz
* Thanks to the Sarnia Observer who originally published this series and granted LWI permission to use it online.