Do not burn those leaves! They are a very necessary part of building soil. Their composition adds rich humus as they break down and the nutrients they contain are released back into the soil to feed plants.
Leaves are composted naturally in all wild and neglected environments. Just look at what happens in a forest.
And we can do the same in our own gardens…even speed up the process a little by shredding the leaves first with a leaf shredder, a mulching lawn mower, or a rotary push mower.
Step 1: Prepare an area to compost your leaves. Lay a tarp or piece of heavy plastic on the ground or in the bottom of one of your compost bins.
Step 2: Add nitrogen. This can be lawn clippings, manure, seaweed, or a nitrogen supplement. (See list below.)
- If using lawn clippings: lay down roughly three inches of leaves first, then sprinkle the clippings evenly over top until this layer measures an inch.
- If using manure: lay down roughly four inches of leaves first, then sprinkle the manure evenly over top until this layer measures an inch.
- If using seaweed: lay down roughly three inches of leaves first, then sprinkle the seaweed evenly over top until this layer measures an inch.
- If using a nitrogen supplement: add a dusting to one wheelbarrow load of leaves. Lay down wheelbarrow load of leaves first, then sprinkle the nitrogen supplement sparingly over top.
Step 3: Build up your heap of leaves in increments following the amounts noted in Step 2. Cover the heap with plastic to keep warmth in and the moisture constant.
Step 4: Remove the plastic and turn the heap every now and then. This will re-generate heat within the pile which aids in composting. How frequently you turn the pile will determine how fast your heap of leaves will compost down into rich humus material.
Nitrogen supplements: use any one of these if you do not have enough grass clippings on hand or easy access to a manure or seaweed source. Follow directions in Step 2.
- Alfalfa meal
- Coffee grounds
- Cottonseed meal
- Soybean meal