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Monday, February 19, 2018

How to Compost Leaves the Easy Way

Posted by admin on September 24, 2010

Did you know that leaves make great compost? Yes, I said wonderful leaves! Those leaves falling outside your window are a great source of organic material for making compost.

It’s true-leaves are an excellent organic material for making compost for a couple of reasons:

Since trees usually have extensive root systems, leaves end up being the recipient of all those nutrients gathered from the soil.
Leaves are highly fibrous improving the aeration and composition of the soil.

Now, I can hear you saying, “I tried to compost my leaves, but it didn’t work.” Probably most people have had some negative experience trying to compost leaves. Actually, leaves can take several years to break down if you fail to compost them properly. Don’t worry, learning how to compost leaves is not nearly as difficult as you may think. We are going to show you the easy way to compost leaves.

The first question many people ask is “What kind of leaves work best for composting?” Just about any typical leaf works great. Here are some of the most common leaf types:

White Ash
American Beech

Balsam Fir
Eastern Hemlock
Red Maple
Sugar Maple
White Oak

We should mention that if oak or beech leaves are used exclusively the resulting compost will be a bit more acidic making it quite suitable for plants such as rhododendrons and blueberries. You can tone down the acidity by adding some limestone to the leaves as you fill your compost bin or compost pile.

There are two important things that you must do when you compost leaves to ensure that your leaves will compost properly. The first thing is to make sure your leaves are shredded when adding them to your composter, compost tumbler or compost pile.

Shredding your leaves is quite easy. You can mow over them several times before you rake them up. Also, there are a number of manufacturers who make shredder / chippers that work great for leaves. I even had a gasoline powered blower that had a vacuum attachment for picking up leaves, which left the leaves in a nice shredded state.

The second important thing you must do when you compost leaves is to make sure that you add nitrogen to your compost bin or compost pile. Leaves contain very little nitrogen. It is this lack of nitrogen that causes the leaves to decay slowly. Adding nitrogen to your compost bin or compost pile will help to speed up the decomposition process of the leaves. Adding nitrogen can be as simple as adding grass clippings with the leaves as you fill your compost tumbler or compost bin.

Other sources of nitrogen include manure, dried blood, alfalfa meal, and bone meal. If you are using manure, use 1 part manure to five parts leaves. If you are using a natural source of nitrogen such as dried blood, use two cups per wheelbarrow load of leaves.

Once you have shredded your leaves and found an additional nitrogen source, you simply add your leaves and nitrogen source to your compost tumbler, compost bin or compost pile and keep the leaves moist but not wet and allow nature to do its thing. You will of course want to keep your leaves turned on a fairly regular basis if you are using a compost bin or compost pile.

If you want to make the composting process even quicker and easier, a compost tumbler works the best. With a compost tumbler you are able to easily turn your compost on a weekly basis keeping the organic material well-mixed thereby speeding up the decomposition process. With a compost tumbler you can have compost in as little as 3 or 4 weeks. Two great compost tumblers for backyard composting are the Envirocycle Compost Tumbler and the Tumbleweed Compost Tumbler.

Hopefully, at this point you will look on those falling leaves a little more favorably. Taking some time to compost leaves in the fall will result in great compost to use in your garden in the spring. So go outside, rake some leaves and make some compost!

For additional information on composting you may want to read “What Can You Compost?” Happy raking and composting! “Don’t throw it away, compost it!” is your source for composters and composting equipment, as well as composting know-how. We are here to help you get started composting at home today. Come by for a visit.

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