The gardener's equivalent to recycling is composting, and one local man has been doing just that for years, saving a nursery where he once worked thousands of dollars in soil costs.
Jim Mayfield started composting long before many knew what the word meant. Retired after 44 years in the nursery business, Mayfield said he first entertained the thought of composting when he worked with Hines Nursery.
"We would just put the old soil into a pile," said Mayfield, who composts at home year-round. "Finally, I decided there had to be something we could do with it. So, I looked into finding a way to use it."
Mayfield said he soon discovered that old potting soil can be composted, and the nursery took to the idea. He estimates the business saved thousands of dollars for its recycling effort.
On a much smaller scale, the home gardener can save money on soil by composting.
At-home composting can be done in a number of ways -- in bins, barrels or piles. Mayfield prefers to use a composting barrel but said many people use composting bins, where their material is at various stages of breaking down.
"I compost in a big drum," Mayfield said. "And if you know what to put in it to break it down, you can do it year-round.
Readily available items, particularly leaves, can be composted, Mayfield said. Table scraps can be added to composting piles, but Mayfield said it's important to stay clear of meat and food with oil on it.
"You have to add a certain amount of what I call 'brown' and 'green' to it," Mayfield said. "Greens helps break down the brown."
Leaves account for the brown component, while yard clippings are the green product. A compost pile should consist of approximately 60 percent brown material and 40 percent green material.
Mayfield said pine straw is not a good material to compost because it takes too long to break down.
When composting, adding fertilizer will help break down the materials, he said. If using a compost barrel, adding a small amount of water will help keep the materials moist.
"It's not that hard," Mayfield said, "but it's a constant process."
Mayfield says he turns his compost barrel daily and adds that he can have a batch of compost ready for use within two months during the winter.
"Most people will probably start composting in March and go until the fall," he said.
Individuals who are considering composting should start planning now on what type of unit to use and where to place it.
"It's a great source of organic soil," Mayfield said. "There's nothing in it that's not organic."
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