So, you want to use your fall leaves in your compost pile? Well, that is a great idea, but there are some things you need to know first. It is just a little bit more than simply throwing them in the pile and walking away.
If you have a mower with a bagger, this is probably the very best way to gather your leaves for composting. The mower will chop them up with some grass clippings and they will begin to decompose faster. However, not everyone has a bagger on their mower. Simply throw the leaves as they are on to your pile. You may even put them on your garden and till them under to decompose over the winter. This is called composting in place.
Using the Whole Leaf
If you are not shredding your leaves, you can simply throw them on the pile as they are. Understand that they will take longer to break down than the chopped leaves. You don’t really want to add your entire batch of leaves at one time. Instead, it is best to add them a little at a time and make sure that you stir your pile with each addition. This will help with moisture and airflow which are both very important for the decomposition process.
Generally speaking, if you add too many at one time, whole leaves will tend to mat. Unfortunately, when this happens, it prevents moisture and airflow from getting to the compost below the mat and slows down the whole process for the pile or bin.
Pile, Bin, or Tumbler?
Using a bin or stall seems to be the preferred way to compost because it allows you to keep your compost contained. That keeps it from spreading on the wind if the top dries out. It would be a bit discouraging to add your leaves and then have to rake them again.
A pile allows you 360 degree access for stirring, but again, you may not like the spread that happens due to the wind and your friendly neighborhood critters.
Finally, tumblers. This method is by far the easiest in the long run. As the name suggests, you can tumble your compost inside without a need for a shovel or a pitchfork. This method is great for composting smaller amounts. It is perfect for people in small spaces or renting and great for patio gardening as well. There are even table top versions that are great for food scraps and plant litter.
It really doesn’t matter how you do it, the benefits are the same. Composting adds nutrients, improves drainage, and adds aeration in your garden or patio containers. Using your fallen leaves cleans up your yard and doesn’t leave you scrambling to figure out where you are going to dispose of them.
For more information check out the NC Cooperative Extension website
And, as always, HAPPY GARDENING!
While we are on the subject of fall, it’s football season. Try this recipe for your next game day gathering.