Autumn is also considered by some as the best time to start composting as the tidying and cleaning up of the garden in readiness for winter provides plenty of material and, hopefully, the bin will have time get into its stride before
the worst of the cold weather.
Autumn is also recommended as a good time to apply compost as a mulch it can be applied both to established beds and around specimen plants. Compost can be used as mulch to top dress the lawn in the autumn when people
are less likely to spend time in the garden and may not worry about the look of compost on the lawn.
Whether starting a new bin, or operating an existing one, getting it decomposing well throughout the autumn, when the weather is kind, will help to
provide a good crop of compost in the spring. If an open pile or New Zealand bin is being used cover it, either with carpet, tarpaulin or a compost duvet, so as to prevent the material becoming water logged and aerate it so as to keep it working for
as long as possible.
It is a good idea to increase the surface area of waste added to the bin in the autumn, even if the material added to the bin is not usually shredded for the rest of the year, so as to help speed the composting process. If it is
soft material it can be put on the lawn and run over with the lawn mower if a shredder is not available.
There is likely to be a lot of material available at this time of year. If it is not practical to start a second bin, store it in a covered pile.
It is important to keep the pile dry, as dry material will heat up in a bin more quickly than wet. Material being saved in the autumn for use as bulking agent in food composting e.g. sawdust or composted wood chip used should also be kept dry. (I keep mine
in plastic dustbins)
September is the time to compost the dead (or dying) summer flowers and material from the last of the summer vegetables, including the plants themselves, e.g. beans, globe artichokes, tomatoes and peppers
and those cropping during the autumn e.g. marrow squashes, leeks and main crop potatoes.
Continue harvesting comfrey until late September when it should be left uncut for the leaves to die of naturally.
In October, any remaining summer crops
can be composted along with potato helms and beetroot tops as they are lifted. Any remaining climbing bean, pea or tomato plants can be chopped into small pieces for composting as the supports are taken down. Discoloured and blotchy leaves are safe to compost
as the organisms causing the blotches will be broken down in during the composting process. The roots of plants with soil borne diseases such as brassicas with club-root in and white rot in onions should not be cold composted as the spores will survive.
Squashes, pumpkins can be harvested and the plants chopped and composted. Carved pumpkins can be composted after Halloween Composting Pumpkins
weeds can be composted if the allotment is to dug, manured and left for the winter.
The tops and trimmers of root vegetables will continue to be available for composting on the allotment and their peelings from the kitchen This
is the main time of year for pruning fruit trees and bushes (except cherries and plums) proving shredded material for the compost bin.
There should still plenty of material available to feed the compost heap with more becoming available as plants in
the flower bed catch the frost. If the compost heap starts overflowing either start a new bin or store the material until the heap subsides and the waste can be added. It is helpful to turn the compost heap, or bin, to mix the new material and
aerate it to encourage the composting processes before the onset of winter.
Towards the end of the month it is advisable to check the consistency and moisture level of the contents. If the material is too dry more greens can be added e.g. nettles
and annual weeds along with water or the sludge from compost tea. If too wet scrumpled cardboard shredded paper, woodchip or sawdust can be added.
Wormeries should be moved into a shed or outbuilding or if they are to be left outside during the winter
the bin should be insulated so that the contents and worms are not frozen, I have round that a triple layer of bubble wrap makes an excellent insulating material which does not absorb water, is clean and easy to reuse. The worms will still need
feeding during the winter, although at a reduced rate, so a removable bubble wrap lid should be included.
Bag autumn leaves for leaf mould or as a carbon-rich winter source of Browns for the compost bin on the allotment where cardboard
or shredded paper will not be available. The autumn leaves can also be used immediately in the compost bin layering them with grass clippings, kitchen waste and other plant material but remember that the leaves tend to be slow to decompose,
so this may not be the method of choice (see Leaf mould). Some leaves can be set aside to add to the compost bin during the winter months to provide a source of Browns when most of the other material being added is kitchen waste.