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Composting Leaves: For Fall Gardeners

December 5, 2021

Composting Leaves For Your Garden

Composting leaves is a fantastic method to recycle and create an amazing and nutrient rich garden soil amendment that will provide amazing results. The benefits using leaves in your compost are many. The leaf compost provides bulk and increases the porosity of the soil, raises the fertility, diminishes the strain on landfills, and can create a living layer over your plants. Learning how to compost leaves is simple and requires a little knowledge of the balance of nitrogen and carbon. The correct N/C balance will ensure fast composting of leaves for spring time fertilizer.

Benefits of Leaf Compost

Composting leaves makes a dark, rich, earthy, organic additive for your garden that can be used like any other amendment. It adds nutrients to your garden soil and the larger particle size helps enhance the tilth and loosen compacted earth. Compost helps maintain moisture and can be used as mulch.

How to Compost Leaves

The compost bin doesn’t have to be a complex structure and you can keep it super simple and even compost in a pile. The basic idea is to maintain a pile, and add air occasionally as fuel for the aerobic microbes that are in the pile decomposing the material. You also need to keep the compost slightly warm, around 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15 C.) or warmer, and moist. The most basic compost bin is 3 square feet or so. This gives enough room to turn the compost to increase the air circulation and mix in moist material and makes it manageable. Composting leaves in garden soil as a top dressing is even more simple and helps keep weeds at bay. You can chop up the leaves with your mower and spread them over your vegetable or flower garden. Note: You also need a balance of carbon, which is the leaf litter, and nitrogen. Nitrogen can be thought of as green, moist items such as grass clippings, or types of kitchen waste. Fast composting of leaves starts with a layer 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20.5 cm.) thick of leaves with one inch (2.5 cm.) of soil and an inch (2.5 cm.) of manure or another green nitrogen source. You can also add 1 cup (240 mL.) of nitrogen fertilizer. Mix the layers every two weeks or so and add moisture as necessary

Problems: Disease and Nasties

I would avoid diseased leaves while composting. They may be composted but it high temperatures to kill the pathogens and it is not sensible in the winter compost pile. The pathogens end up infecting your compost, and if you spread this compost in the garden it will infect the plants.

Tip: Adding leaves to your compost pile = browns, or carbon. In order to maintain proper balance in your compost pile, you will want to balance out the browns with green materials. Turning and watering your pile regularly will assist in the composting process. Composting leaves that are only heating up in the center of the pile should be turned out and mixed with fresh organic materials.

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