Turning Leaves into Compost
Tis the season for falling leaves. It is inevitable that your yard will become inundated with red, yellow, orange, and then, brown. After you are done raking them up and letting the kids play in them, there are more options than just filling up the yard waste bin over and over. Convert your fallen leaves into the elusive, “Black Gold”. Yes, I am talking about compost. Your spring garden will thank you. Here’s how.
Turn Fallen Leaves into Compost AKA Black Gold
Here’s everything you need to know about turning leaves into compost. Pay attention to the details – it really does make a difference in the quality of compost as it ages.
- All leaves are not created equal. Maple, Birch, Ash, Beech, and fruit trees make fantastic compost. Oak leaves? Not so much. We aren’t just Oak haters, Oak leaves are more acidic than others and result in compost that is no good for the veggie garden. This doesn’t mean you need to pick every single oak leaf out of the pile, as long as oak leaves make up no more than 10% to 20% of your stash, you should be fine.
- Shred it up! No matter what, don’t keep the leaves whole – that will just become a big matted mess. The rule of thumb? Shred, shred, shred, then shred some more. The finer the better, and it really doesn’t matter how you get there. Riding lawn mower, shredder, or even a push mower will work just fine. We don’t recommend tearing by hand.
- Make friends with Nitrogen. Shredded or not, without introducing nitrogen into your pile of leaves it can take well over a year to create the ideal compost. Nitrogen speeds up the process. There are a few easy ways to do this: green grass, chicken, rabbit, or horse manure make great nitrogen sources. Any of those lying around will do, or you can buy off the shelf compost activator at the store. To figure out how much to add, use the 5:1 rule. For every 5 bags, wheelbarrows, or pile of leaves, add one of the compost activator of your choice.
- Cook to your heart’s content. Keep the pile warm and moist to “cook” your compost. There is no better place to keep your compost pile than right where you’ll need it in the garden. Pile it all together and let it sit. Check on it every week and pay attention to the moisture levels. If it seems dry add some water and turn it a bit. It doesn’t take much to keep it cooking. You should be able to liken the pile to a damp sponge.
- Make the recipe your own! You can add tons of household scraps to your compost to aid the process. Other yard waste, scraps of food, and fruit peels work well. Even better? Coffee grounds. It’s a good thing we live in Portland, there’s plenty of those. Did you know that the average Oregonian drinks around 4 cups of coffee a day? Can we say, “Hello, Black Gold!”?
Find the Leaves You Need in Portland
Not sure you have enough leaves on your property? I bet your neighbors would be happy to help. Offer to collect the leaves, and you should have an easy time gathering enough to make compost. Or, surf the streets for people putting yard waste out to be picked up.
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