Do not begrudge the falling leaves of autumn; they are the city gardener’s best friend and referred to by gardener's in the know as "black gold." A well decomposed compost heap is a wise and inexpensive way to mulch ornamentals and fruit trees as well as a vegetable garden.A good compost heap supplies the garden with valuable microorganisms and plant nutrients for a more fertile soil. Pioneers made excellent use of livestock manure, adding it to their kitchen garden compost heap. A chicken run would usually be situated mere yards from a pioneer's house.
The city of Toronto boasts Canada's oldest house. During the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE), Scadding Cabin, http://yorkpioneers.org/cabin.html a tiny log cabin built in 1794 and moved from its Toronto (then known as York) location in 1879 to the CNE grounds, one may tour the log cabin and garden. Volunteers are usually members of historical societies and are eager to answer questions on growing herbs, flowers and vegetables.
Excellent garden compost can be made with grass cuttings (let the mowed grass clippings lay in place for a day or two to dry out before gathering for the compost heap), vegetable and fruit kitchen waste, leaves, used tea bags and coffee grounds. Cut any thick and long stringy vegetables into one inch pieces before adding to the compost heap.
Bark, hedge clippings and all woody stuff should be used in a separate compost pile as woody stuff takes forever to decompose into the lovely black humus every gardener covets. Do not use diseased or material riddled with plant pests; and, especially, do not use weeds or couch grass in your compost heap. Some people toss on the compost heap washed and dried egg shells.
Set aside a spot at the back of the garden for the open air compost heap. Use garden and kitchen waste that will pile up over the growing and pruning season for the heap. Remember those leaves? Autumn is the season for gathering those precious decaying leaves to add to the compost pile. Let the leaves dry out before adding to the compost.
Some people prefer to use a commercial compost container with lid and sit this at the rear of the garden and fill with garden and kitchen waste. Choose a shady spot at the back of your garden for the location of the open air compost heap and/or bin as too much sun will heat up the material to a temperature that cooks all the decomposing material nutrients (nitrogen) to a less than satisfactory temperature. If your heap doesn’t get hot enough to decompose your material in the coming weeks and months use an accelerator such as Nitro-chalk or one of the commercial products sold for this purpose.
A fine mist of water should be applied to the decomposing material as it becomes dry. After one month turn the heap with a shovel (follow manufacturer’s directions if using a commercial compost bin) and apply a fine mist of water to wet down any dry material in the heap. Make sure to turn the material to bring the inner parts to the outside and the outside material into the centre for a good mix. Worms may show up to the feast. Not to worry as worms help along the entire composting process. If at any time the heap begins to smell add more dry autumn leaves and mix. Canada's garden guru, Mark Cullen, has been getting dirty and loving it for well over fifty-years. Cullen has written several "how to" books for adults and children. One I like is "Sandbox." You'll also find much information on making and using compost in your garden. http://markcullen.com/
Once the heap has decomposed into a brown sludgy mass over the course of six to eight weeks and is cold the mixture may be used as compost material and mixed into your garden soil. You may have to wait over the winter until spring in cold climates for the entire process to work. By spring you’ll have compost material worth its weight in gold as good gardeners often say. Your vegetables will taste especially good and your flowers will doubtless win awards. http://www.canadablooms.com/