Now is a good time to start composting

By Rebecca Jepsen
For the Mercury News
September 6, 2008

September is the time when most summer crops are ready to "give up the ghost". Most varieties of beans are getting a bit tired. Summer lettuce and many herbs have bolted and early fruiting tomatoes are on their last legs as some varieties may keep fruiting into late October. 

The end of summer harvest is a great time to start composting. Composting is not only economical,it puts you in charge of what you are putting back into your garden; especially important if you are trying to grow organic produce. Compost is essential for growing a great garden; it not only adds nutrients to the soil, it helps soil retain moisture. By composting your grass clippings, leaves, garden waste and food scraps; you can significantly cut down on the amount of garbage you are sending to the local landfill.

A common rule of thumb is to start your compost pile with two parts brown (leaves, dead plants, paper or straw) and one part green (grass clippings, kitchen waste, fresh plant trimmings). Balancing your compost pile will help it heat up or "cook" more quickly. Size does matter, it is generally recommended to compost a cubic yard in volume (3x3x3). Keeping the pile moist and turning it will also help speed up the process. Do not compost plants that have been effected by disease or fungus.

September is also the time to start seeding cool season crops to ensure a bounty of fall and winter produce. If you are growing most of your vegetables from seed; start carrots, beets, beans, peas, and radishes early in the month. Broccoli, onions, spinach, winter lettuce, and Swiss chard, do better planted as transplants.

If you haven't had a chance to check out the new Santa Clara County Master Gardener website, please do. You will find information on upcoming events and classes as well as seasonal gardening information for our region. Go to  http://mastergardeners.org/scc.html.