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Time to start composting? Here are ways to get into garden recycling ... for yourself or someone on your gift list.

To the avid gardeners on your holiday list, give some tools for composting. Not only will the recipients grow healthier plants, but by recycling garden waste they'll also be aiding the environment. It's a simple fact: raking leaves, pruning, and even snipping spent blooms create debris. Back-yard composting is an inexpensive way to turn that debris into a nutrient-rich additive for improving soil's structure, fertility, and water-holding capacity. In many communities, composting also has become a necessity because of overburdened landfills. (During the summer and fall, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 50 percent of municipal solid waste is made up of clippings, leaves, and other garden materials.) Recycling garden trimmings helps to ease that load. The essential tools for composting include shears, rakes, and gloves to help with pruning and cleanup; containers or a cloth tote to collect waste; a garden fork or compost aerator for turning the pile; and a storage bin for the finished product. A compost grinder isn't essential, but it saves precious garden space by quickly shrinking a large pile of prunings down to a small mound. Ground-up debris also composts much more quickly. Keep in mind that not all grinders are alike. Some types only handle nonwoody material. Others are capable of grinding branches up to 4 inches in diameter. For more details on grinders, see the November 1986 Sunset.) To compost, some back-yard farmers simply pile garden waste in a mound set away from the house. But most prefer to use some sort of box or bin, especially in a small garden where there may be nowhere to hide a pile. In prefabricated composters, choices include redwood (shown above), plastic, and simple wire bins; prices range from $38 for a wire bin or $198 for a redwood one to $240 for a compost drum of galvanized steel. Completely enclosed wood or plastic containers help retain heat and moisture for faster composting; they also protect the compost from soaking rains. Wire bins are inexpensive but do little more than contain the clippings. Where to order equipment You can buy many types of composting supplies, grinders, and tools locally; check hardware stores, nurseries, and garden supply stores. Or order them by mail (prices given don't include shipping costs). The catalogs are free unless otherwise noted. The Alsto Company, Box 1267, Galesburg, 111. 61401; (800) 447-0048. Sells biodegradable debris bags, leaf totes, compost aerators, two sizes of grinders, pruning shears, loppers, leaf shredders, thermometers, and plastic, steel, and wire composters. Gardener's Eden, Mail Order Department, Box 7307, San Francisco 94120; (415) 421-4242. Sells arm protectors, plastic composters, compost acrators, garden gloves, pruning shears, and kitchen compost buckets. The Natural Gardening Company, 217 San Anselmo Ave., San Anselmo, Calif. 94960; (415) 456-5060. Sells redwood composters, aerators, garden forks, and soil sifters. Ringer, 9959 Valley View Rd., Eden Prairie, Minn. 55344; (800) 654-1047. Sells wire composters and several kinds of plastic ones, as well as compost activators, aerators, heavy-duty grinders, leaf shredders, and thermometers. Catalog $1 ($2 rebate on first order). Smith & Hawken, 25 Corte Madera, Mill Valley, Calif. 94941; (415) 383-2000. Sells biodegradable debris bags, composters, aerators, garden forks, rakes, pruning shears, and loppers.
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Date:Dec 1, 1990
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