Composting Leaves for Your Garden

08
June

Those of us with trees in our yards are all too familiar with the sight of leaves covering the ground each autumn. But don’t throw those dead leaves away! Turn your trash into treasure by transforming it into cheap and nutritious compost for your garden.

The first step, of course, is to pick up the leaves. We all know this can be a chore, but don’t put it off. When leaves cover the ground for a long time, they can rob the grass underneath of nutrients and even cause it to decompose, making a mess of your lawn.

There are several ways to clean up your leaves. You can go the low-tech route and simply rake them into a pile, but if you have a big yard or a lot of trees, this can be exhausting work. If you haven’t raked the leaves in a long time, it may be worth it to rent a leaf blower from a local garden store to get everything straightened up and then maintain it by raking regularly.

Another option is to fit your lawn mower with a bag so that you can simply mow your way over the fallen leaves, automatically collecting them in the bag as you go. Don’t worry about the cut grass that will end up in the bag as well; it will only help your compost pile.

The lawn mower method has the added benefit of shredding the leaves into pieces. Shredded leaves are much quicker and easier to compost than a pile of whole ones. Even if you don’t have a bag for your lawn mower, you can still use the lawn mower to shred the leaves by mowing over them and simply raking them up afterwards. If you have a lot of leaves, you can also consider using a garden chipper to shred them, where plant materials are fed into the top of the machine and come out in a pile at the bottom.

Now you have a big pile of shredded leaves, which will be the main ingredient of your compost. But leaves alone can take a very long time to decompose, especially in a closed container. You don’t want to wait months to see results. Fortunately, there are some extra ingredients you can add to help your compost along. Adding something high in nitrogen will speed up decomposition. Bone meal is frequently used, but plain old grass clippings are also a great source of nitrogen for your compost. The limestone in commercial potting soil is also great for compost, so include a scoop of that as well.

You should also add a little water to your compost. Moisture is essential for decomposition. Your leaves should be damp, but not dripping wet.

You can keep your compost in a pile with a tarp covering it to keep out rain and snow. A plastic bin will also work, but make sure it is not air-tight. Nothing can decompose without air, so if you are making or buying a container, be sure it has holes in it. Use a rake to turn the compost every week or so, bringing material from the bottom and the middle to the top. You should start to see results in just a few weeks.

Food scraps can be added to a compost pile as well, but animals may be attracted by the food waste. A fence should help keep out unwanted visitors.

If you find you have too many leaves to fit in your compost container, the extra shredded leaves can be used as mulch, covering the ground around your plants and flowers.

All the work of getting your compost pile going will be worth it when you see the results of this free, natural fertilizer on your garden. Soon you may even find yourself smiling instead of sighing when you see the yard covered with leaves each fall.

This post was written by

jasonjason – who has written posts on Home Tips Plus.
I'm a father of three, married and a home owner since 2006. I've worked in fixing up homes and rental properties.

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