It’s autumn, the time for pumpkins, bonfires, and leaves crunching underfoot. But wait – instead of bagging those leaves and leaving them by the curb, why not turn them into a delicious feast for next year’s garden? Here’s how.
We all love the crisp and beautiful days of fall, but one thing many of us don’t enjoy is raking up all those leaves. Unfortunately, far too many of us simply put the leaves in bags and have the yard waste truck take them away.
This is a great loss for your garden; did you know that leaves actually contain twice as many minerals as manure? Just tossing them is throwing away valuable fertilizer that you could use to make your garden even better next year – plus, you won’t have to go to all the work of cramming all those leaves in bags!
However, composting leaves requires some special considerations, as they are not that easy to compost on their own. Instead, follow these simple tips to make beautiful, rich compost for next year’s garden delights!
The leaves of one large shade tree can be worth as much as $50 of plant food and humus. Pound for pound, the leaves of most trees contain twice as many minerals as manure….
Since most trees are deep-rooted, they absorb minerals from deep in the soil and a good portion of these minerals go into the leaves….
Actually, these multi-colored gifts from above are most valuable for the large amounts of fibrous organic matter they supply. Their humus-building qualities mean improved structure for all soil types. They aerate heavy clay soils, prevent sandy soils from drying out too fast, soak up rain and check evaporation.
A lawn sweeper is a good machine to use for collecting leaves. Using a sweeper is much faster than hand raking, and a better picking-up job is done….
Some people complain to us that they have no luck composting leaves. “We make a pile of our leaves,” these people say, “but they never break down.” That is indeed a common complaint.
There are two things you can do that will guarantee success in composing leaves:
1. Add extra nitrogen to your leaf compost. Manure is the best nitrogen supplement, and a mixture of five parts leaves to one part manure will certainly break down quickly. If you don’t have manure—and many gardeners don’t—nitrogen supplements like dried blood, cottonseed meal, bone meal and Agrinite will work almost as well. Nitrogen is the one factor that starts compost heap heating up, and leaves certainly don’t contain enough nitrogen to provide sufficient food for bacteria. Here is a rough guide for nitrogen supplementing: Add two cups of dried blood or other natural nitrogen supplement to each wheelbarrow load of leaves.
2. The second thing to do to guarantee leaf-composting success is to grind or shred your leaves. We will deal with this in detail later on, but let me tell you right now that it will make things simpler for you in the long run….
A compost pile can be made in almost any size, but most people like to make rectangular-shaped piles, because they are easier to handle. It is a good idea to put the material in the heap of layers. Start with a six-inch layer of leaves, either shredded or not shredded. Then add a two-inch layer of other organic material that is higher in nitrogen than leaves. Try to pick something from this list: manure, garbage, green weeds, grass clippings or old vines from your garden…. It is important to mix leaves from packing down in a dry mat. Keep the heap moist, but not soggy.
Turn the heap every three weeks or sooner if you feel up to it. If you can turn it three or four times, before late spring comes, you will have fine compost ready for spring planting use.
You can make compost out of leaves in as short of time as fourteen days by doing these things:
How to Grind Leaves
Leaves can be used much more conveniently in the garden if they are ground or shredded. Leaves in their natural state tend to blow away or mat down into a tight mass. If shredded they turn into compost or leaf mold much faster, and make much better mulch.
If you don’t have a shredder, there are various other devices you can adapt to leaf shredding, or make yourself….
How to Make Leafmold
If you have so many leaves on your place that you can’t compost all of them—or if you just don’t have the time to make compost—you can make leaf mold. Leaf mold is not as rich a fertilizer as composted leaves, but it’s easier to make and is especially useful as mulch.
If you keep poultry or livestock, use your supply of leaves for litter or bedding along with straw or hay. Leaf mold thus enriched with extra nitrogen may later be mixed directly with soil or added to the compost pile.
For more tips, check out the full article at CompostGuide.com….