17 year old Toya Njeri Chege farming greens in Ngong. [David Gichuru,Standard]

17 year old Toya Njeri Chege farming greens in Ngong. [David Gichuru,Standard]

To make compost gather enough materials to make a pile at least three feet deep, mix the dry materials such as fallen leaves, shredded tree branches, cardboard, newspaper; hay or straw; wood shavings. Green materials include kitchen scraps and coffee grounds, animal manures (not from dogs or cats) and fresh plant and grass trimmings, which add nitrogen. Start building your compost pile by mixing three parts brown with one part green materials for best results. If your compost pile looks too wet and smells, add more brown items or aerate more often. If it seems extremely brown and dry, add green items and water to make it slightly moist.

Shred the leaves

Shred the leaves to hasten the decomposition. Whole leaves take a long time to decompose. Not only does shredding create smaller pieces to compost, it tears multiple edges of the leaf fragments, causing them to deteriorate even faster.

Shredding can be accomplished easily with a leaf shredder or a push or riding mower. Simply layout the leaves in a row and mow over them. Once shredded, add them to a compost bin, or ring them with a section of fencing or chicken wire. Keeping a pile contained helps hold them in place for faster composting. 

Add nitrogen source to stimulate decomposition. Nitrogen facilitates the piling up of heat necessary for breaking down the leaves. To make the compost pile put the materials in layers. Start with a six-inch layer of leaves, either shredded or not shredded.

The common complaint has been the inability of the leaves to decompose. To hasten the decomposition of leaves, add nitrogen fertiliser. Mix five leaves to one part of manure.

Nitrogen will cause the compost heap to heat up and support the bacteria responsible for decomposition. Spray the leaves with water to moisten them before adding the green layer.

Add a layer of manure as a source of nitrogen. Repeat the exercise until you achieve the desired quantity. Turn the heap after every three days. Covering the pile with a plastic sheet will retain the warmth and prevent it from getting too wet or dry.

Sprinkle water

Sprinkle water over the pile regularly to have the consistency of a damp sponge. Don’t add too much water; otherwise, the microorganisms in your pile will become waterlogged and drown. If this happens, your pile will rot instead of compost. Monitor the temperature of your pile to be sure the materials are correctly decomposing.

Or, reach into the middle of the pile with your hand. Your compost pile should feel warm. Provide the pile with oxygen during the growing season by turning it with a garden fork once a week.

The best time to turn the compost is when the pile’s centre feels warm or when a thermometer reads between 130 and 150 degrees farenheight. Stirring up the pile will help it cook faster and prevent material from matting down and developing an odour. At this point, the layers have served their purpose of creating equal amounts of green and brown materials throughout the pile, so stir thoroughly.

Speed up the decomposition process by adding little chicken manure. You can also use an organic compost starter to heat the pile. Chicken, cow, horse, and rabbit manure are incredible to add to a fall leaf compost pile. They heat the pile quickly and break dry materials down with ease.

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