Green Eyes On: Start a Compost Pile With Your Gutter Cleanings


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It’s spring and, like it or not, that means spring cleaning for you and millions of other like-minded home dwellers out there. It’s time to cleanse the windowsills, banish the dust bunnies, purge the closet and…well, whatever else it is you do this time of year.

For me, it’s a time to PURGE! Purge closets, leftover plants in pots and beds, and gutters in preparation of spring time showers.Ok, I’ll admit it -- I didn’t climb up the ladder to scrape the gutters myself. I’m entirely too much of a klutz for that. I would, without a doubt, fall off the ladder, pull all of the gutters down with me and proceed to break every limb in my body. But I’m off topic.

If spring is signaling you to clean the gutters of a season’s worth of leaves, twigs and other tree droppings then I suggest you pause and first consider what it is you’ll do with all of the organic matter you gather from your gutters. Now just might be the perfect time to start that compost pile you’ve been dreaming about.

Compost needs three things, plus two. It needs heat (that’s why you put the pile in the sun or partial sun), moisture (which comes naturally from the stuff you put in the pile) and air (this comes from turning, or in the case of a tumbler, spinning the pile).

It also needs two very important elements: the greens and the browns. Greens are things like grass clippings, weeds, apple cores, banana peels and so on and they add nitrogen to the soil. Browns are elements such as dry leaves and shredded cardboard. Browns contribute carbon to the compost pile. In general, 25-30 parts brown to one part green will create a healthy compost pile.

There ‘s plenty of information online about what should and shouldn’t be composted. But a definite "should" is the crud you gather from your gutters this spring. Are you wondering exactly why you should compost? First, it’s free fertilizer. In fact, compost is fertilizer, mulch and soil conditioner (providing strength, aeration and integrity to the soil) all wrapped up into one dirty little package. And it reduces the amount of waste you send to the landfill each week, thereby preventing pollution.

Spring clean your way to a lighter footprint…with a much, much bigger pile of compost.

Sara Snow is a green living expert and regular contributor to TreeHugger via her Green Eyes On column. She can also be seen on CNN.com on Thursdays from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Her new DVD Growing Green Babies and her new book Sara Snow's Fresh Living are now available through SaraSnow.com.
More On Composting:
Compost: How to Make It, Bins, Piles and More
7 Reasons to Compost
Make a Compost Bin from an Old Storage Tub
Discover the Classiest Way to Compost
Build a Compost Box in Your Apartment
How to Build a Leaf Composter

Tags: Cleaning | Composting | Fertilizer | Gardening | Sara Snow