With Fall in full swing, autumn leaves will be plentiful! Autumn leaves are an excellent source of nutrients for your garden. However, we can’t just cover our garden with leaves and call it a day. We need to turn these leaves into the soil to help our plants grow and help the environment through the process of Composting!
The Benefits of Composting:
1. Great for the Environment!
Composting creates healthy soil that doesn’t contain man-made chemicals and additives that can leak into the water supply or your food!
2. Introduces Important Organisms to the Soil!
Microorganisms like bacteria and fungi aerate the soil, which helps plants grow big and strong. These microorganisms even protect against some plant diseases.
3. Minimizes Landfill Waste!
Instead of tossing food scraps and fallen leaves into the trash bin to be sent to landfills, we can utilize these items to create healthy soil.
How to Compost, Step by Step:
1. Choose your Leaves Wisely
The best leaves for composting are Ash, Beech, Birch, Cherry, Maple, and all fruit and nut trees. Leaves that feel waxy to the touch (Magnolia, Ginkgo among others) will take much longer to break down and aren’t recommended for composting. Oak leaves are also not preferred for composting because of the acidity of their leaves.
2. Shred your Leaves
Whole leaves take much longer to break down than fragmented leaves. It is important to shred or break them down with a rake, leaf shredder, or lawn mower. Once broken down, place the leaves in a compost bin or compost pile.
3. Add Nitrogen
Nitrogen helps break down the leaves further and generates heat. Your compost pile should be made of 4 parts brown (dry material like leaves) and 1 part green or active materials. Examples of active materials would be food scraps, egg shells, coffee grounds, fresh grass clippings, and manure. Cow, chicken, horse, or rabbit manure works very well to heat the pile and promote material breakdown to create nutrient-rich soil.
4. Add Oxygen
Mix your pile up anywhere from every few days to once a week to infuse it with oxygen. Oxygen will keep the pile warm even as temperatures drop. Also, make sure you add small amounts of water to keep the pile moist to hasten the process. The consistency of your pile should be that of a damp sponge.
5. Be Consistent and Patient
Try to turn your pile often as the months get colder. Most piles will freeze in the middle of winter but will thaw in early spring. From there, continue to maintain your pile. Your compost pile should be properly broken down and turned into usable soil by early summer!
By following these steps, not only are you making your garden healthier, but also helping our planet!