I decided to take a different approach to our fall/winter compost pile this year. Last October, I built our first fall/winter pile before most leaves had started to fall. And without leaves as a carbon source, I instead relied on aged wood chips. Come spring, I was very happy with the quality of the compost, but I did have to work very hard to sift out chips that didn’t finish breaking down over the winter. I was concerned that if I didn’t, they could potentially tie up nitrogen. So, this year I waited until early November, when there’s an ample supply of leaves, to build our fall/winter compost pile. The leaves will definitely break down by spring. I’ll continue to use aged wood chips in compost, but reserve them for occasions when I won’t need the compost for about a year. I decided to build the pile in a location where I’ll be adding a new raised bed in the spring, but first had to remove this trellis and the remnants of two butternut squash plants. The squash vines and undeveloped fruit became the first layer in the pile. I was so happy with the Geobin I purchased earlier in the year that I decided to get a second one. These bins are 3 feet tall and have a diameter that is adjustable up to 3 ½ feet, which is the perfect size for a hot compost pile. They’re also inexpensive, durable, portable, and easy to store. I placed the bin over the remnants of the squash plants and fastened its two ends together with 5 of these keys. I then added a bag of leaves to the pile, and spread them evenly around the circumference of the circle to ensure the bin retained a nice cylindrical shape. Leaves are a brown, or carbonaceous, compost ingredient, and I’ll be alternating brown and green compost ingredients as I build the pile. Next I chopped up about half of our sunchoke stalks and stacked them in a crisscross pattern. This will trap air in the pile, which is needed by the aerobic bacteria responsible for hot composting. I then added a bag of used coffee grounds, which are rich in nitrogen and therefore a green compost ingredient. I like to use about a 3 to 1 ratio, by volume, of leaves to grounds. In my experience, leaves and used grounds are a combination that reliably gets a pile cooking and produces great compost. Sufficient moisture is an essential ingredient in a hot compost pile, so I watered the first few layers before moving on. Over time, I’ll want the compost to have the moisture of a wrung out sponge. Next I added another bag of leaves, keeping up with the pattern of alternating brown and green ingredients. You may notice that these leaves aren’t shredded. Though they would definitely break down faster if they were, I won’t be using this compost until April or May, and I know from experience that this is more than enough time for leaves to decompose in hot compost. As before, I spread the leaves evenly around the circle to ensure the bin retained its cylindrical shape, and then watered the pile. I then added the remaining sunchoke stalks, some green garden waste, and watered the pile. When composting leaves and green garden waste, I like to use roughly an equal volume of both. Finally, I topped the pile off with another bag of leaves, and then a bag of leaves and green yard waste before giving the pile one last watering. When the compost heats up, its volume will reduce significantly. As it does, I’ll continue to top off the bin with alternating brown and green layers. I prefer to turn compost as little as possible, so my rule of thumb is to turn only when it reaches 150 F or hotter. As temperatures fall this winter, red wigglers and native earthworms from the surrounding area will migrate to the pile for food and warmth. In a few weeks, I’ll build a small hoop house over the pile to keep the compost cooking longer and to provide a safe haven for the worms. Even with last winter’s record cold, this approach kept our compost from freezing all the way through to spring, and the red wigglers in the pile survived. In the spring, I plan to build a raised bed around the pile and simply remove the bin and spread the compost to fill the bed. We’ll plant our perennial tree collards here, and hope to grow them outside year round here in zone 5, with the help of a cold fame and a hoop house. Well, that’s all for now. Thank you very much for watching, and until next time remember you can change the world one yard at a time.