Leaves are a great source of carbon to balance the nitrogen in your compost pile. Adding fallen leaves to your compost pile is a great way to obtain huge amounts of excellent fertilizer, mulch and soil improver. When added to your spring/summer garden, leaves feed beneficial microbes and lighten heavy soils. Making compost out of your fall leaves can save you some cash on plant food and manure next spring. Did you know that the leaves of most trees contain twice as many minerals as manure? Have I convinced you to grab a rake yet?
Let’s put those leaves to work! Here’s how to get the most out of autumn’s most abundant crop:
- Gather up all the leaves that have fallen and shred or grind the leaves up. Whole leaves won’t compost as quickly. Feel free to use a regular lawn mower, they do an excellent job shredding leaves into a fine, chopped mix. However you do it, shred those leaves – the finer the better!
- Add some nitrogen to your compost pile. A pile alone, even if your leaves are shredded, can take a long time to break down. Speed up the decomposition process by adding a source of nitrogen such as fresh cut grass or manure (chicken, rabbit and horse work best). If you don’t have access to grass or manure, you can purchase a ready-made compost activator.
- Throw your leaves and your nitrogen into a compost bin to start “cooking”! The pile will eventually heat up and start to decompose. Feel free to add coffee grounds, fruit peels and scraps grass clippings while you turn your compost. Mix and turn your compost pile a couple times a week to help it compost even quicker.
- Make sure to keep your compost pile moist. It should have the consistency of a damp sponge. If it seems a little dry, add a little water to keep it cooking.