Composting of Autumn Leaves

composting of autumn leaves with pile of tree debris in garden

Composting of Autumn Leaves

Autumn brings with it lots of leaves especially when you have deciduous trees on your property or neighbouring properties. Too often people dispose of them in their green waste bin, but you are potentially throwing away a great product that you get for free. Why not compost them and turn them into a useful product that your garden will love.

There are two things that can assure you success when it comes to composting leaves:

  1. Add extra nitrogen to the leaf compost. The best supplement for nitrogen is chicken manure and a 5:1 ration of leaves and chicken manure will definitely break down the leaves. If you do not have manure, try to get alternative nitrogen supplements such as lawn clippings, blood and bone. Nitrogen is the single factor that starts your compost heap to heat up as fallen leaves do not contain enough nitrogen to offer sufficient food for the bacteria.
  2. The second method is to shred or grind the leaves. A compost pile which is made of shredded leaves is easy as well as fun to work with as it can be easily controlled and handled. An easy way is to run the mower over them at a higher cut height than normal.

A compost pile can be made in any size. However, most people prefer to make rectangular-shaped piles as they are easier to handle. It is better to put the material as heaps of layer. One should start with a 6 inch layer of leaves either shredded or un-shredded. Following this add a layer of 2 inch of organic material that has higher nitrogen content than the leaves. It is essential to mix the leaves and prevent them from packing down. Maintain the heap moist and not soggy. Make sure to turn the heaps once in 3 weeks or even more frequently if you feel it is essential. If you can turn the same for almost 3 to 4 times before the arrival of late spring, then you have landed yourself with fine compost which is ready for use in spring planting.

You can make compost from the leaves in as little as 14 days by doing the following:

  1. Grind or shred the leaves.
  2. Mix 4:1 ratio of ground leaves to manure or a material supplemented with nitrogen.
  3. Turn the heap once in 3 days. Turning the heap resulting from shredded leaves is not difficult as the compost is fluffy as well as light.
  4. You can even try to cover up the heap with a plastic sheet to keep the warmth in and also to prevent the heap from getting too dry or wet.

Benefits of Composted Leaves

The leaves obtained from one big tree can deliver up to $50 in humus as well as plant food. The leaves consist of double the minerals when compared to manure.

Trees tend to absorb most of the minerals from soil. Therefore, the leaves are quite valuable as they supply not only nutrients but also a decent amount of organic matter. Organic matter aids in building better soil structure and can have the following benefits to soils.  They have the ability to aerate clay soils that are heavy, reduce evaporation, prevent drying of sandy soils as well as soak up rain.

So next time you think of throwing the leaves in the bin, think of a spot in your garden where you can have a compost bin and reap the benefits from them.