Having been an avid gardener for most of my life (60 years and counting), I have found that one of the greatest pleasures I derive from being outdoors is the ability to keep my garden in a beautiful and healthy state. A very important aspect of this is finding ways to care for my yard and plants while still staying on a budget. Let's face it -- plants, water, fertilizer and pest control products are all necessary but expensive items when you have to maintain your yard year round under all kinds of weather conditions. I have found that backyard composting solves almost any problem you might encounter.

Most of us have a lawn that we need to mow every week which leads to the inevitable large amount of grass that must be disposed of. Rather than filling up the green container and sending it off to the local dump, consider using the grass as the basis of your compost pile. The compost pile can be just that -- a pile of grass situated in an inconspicuous, sunny corner where you can add other materials from time to time. Sometimes a simple enclosure made out of wire fencing or wooden boards works very well as a composter because it allows you to confine the materials and also keep animals out. One of my favorite composters is one I purchased at a Home Depot store that consists of a lightweight cylinder of black rubber with many aeration holes in it. Once the cylinder is set up, you are ready to begin!

One of the first items I add to the compost bin is what I call "brown" materials such as leaves, shredded newspapers, egg shells, coffee grounds, or even hay. Put in about 12 inches of this material to begin with. I also like to add some soil so that you will eventually have earthworms in the pile. Next, add another 12 inches of "green" materials such as lawn grass, vegetable trimmings from the kitchen, and any other leafy, plant clippings from the garden. Mix both of these layers with a pitchfork so they can begin to break down quickly. The final touch is to add water to the mixture so that it has the consistency of a wet sponge. Leave the pile to sit for a week before you turn it. After the first week, you should turn your compost about twice a week to aerate it. In about 3 to 6 months you will be rewarded with beautiful, rich, loamy soil to add back to your garden!