Save the leaves! (for your compost bin, of course)

At my house there is never a shortage of green material (also known as wet or nitrogen-rich matter) – orange peels, corn husks, dinner food scraps, yard waste, etc. – for my compost bin, but when it comes to finding brown (also known as dry or carbon-rich) material, in the past I’ve often ended up coming up short. The trick, of course, to getting compost to work and breakdown into that coveted nutrient-rich soil is to have the right combination of both green and brown matter.

Two years ago, however, I posted my first Green Tip of the Week suggesting that my readers keep a bag or two (or three) of their dry fall leaves to use throughout the coming year as brown material to add to their compost pile or bin.

If you don’t have a lot of leaves in your yard, chances are you can find a neighbor who’d be more than willing to part with a couple bags of their leaves, especially if you agree to rake and bag them!

Luckily (I guess) for us, we have a tree-filled back yard and never have a problem accumulating several bags of leaves to hold onto, which is exactly what I did last fall and was so happy to have the dry material whenever I needed it. The only problem is that I sometimes still forget to add it (oops!) and then end up with a huge fruit fly problem at the end of the summer (which I thankfully found a remedy for).

After letting the kids spend a good deal of time burying themselves and sliding into the leaf piles, Jody and I got them all raked and bagged. Right now I have about 12 bags of leaves out on the curb for the city to pick up (and mulch), but I’ve also saved three bags in my back yard to add to my compost bin as needed. :) Over at Terminal Verbosity, you can learn more about how to compost.

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14 thoughts on “Save the leaves! (for your compost bin, of course)

  1. Thanks for the linky love! I hope some day we’ll have leaves for our compost bin, but our poor baby trees are just not up to the job yet :)

    This is an important post because I think a lot of people give up on composting because of bugs/smells that could be remedied with just a bit more brown matter!

  2. I have no trees in my yard, or at least not of the kind that shed nice big leaves. So I take my bag out on walks. There are areas where the sidewalks are littered with them, and no one is upset at all if I pick some up for my compost.

    I also use them to mulch over my fall plantings, so that the soil doesn’t compact and all the nutrients wash away. Leaves are great!

  3. i am totally obsessed with composting… and it is a good thing because we have a crapload of leaves in our yard…

    not only that, but our trash dropped almost in half once we started composting our food waste…

    one thing to keep in mind… you may want to compost your oak leaves separately, they are very acidic… only certain plants like them.

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  5. Great post! My city also has locations where people can go to pick up leaves that have been cleaned off the streets – a great option for those without their own trees. Another good thing to add to compost is coffee grounds, which some coffee shops will give to customers as well.

  6. I have such a small yard and small tree in it that browns for my compost bin are always lacking. I compost paper from my paper shredder. It’s very satisfying to shred and then compost the items I get from organizations I don’t agree with and can’t get off of their mailing lists!

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  8. We usually save our leaves but not the last couple of years as we are doing battle with a form of maple blight. If your leaves have spots or fungus of any kind our arborist says that you should make sure get them off the ground as soon as possible and not to put them back into your soil as compost. Sigh…

    We’ve been saving grass clippings and then letting them dry instead but it isn’t nearly as convenient!

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  10. garden

    Buy a 50 ft. roll of turkey wire 4 ft. high with 2″ x 4″ spacing. Cut it in three 15 ft. lengths with 2″ extra wire sticking out at one end to hook onto the other end. Bring the ends together to form a large cage about 4 ft. in diameter. Use the 2″ piece to hook the ends together from top to bottom. Now weave vertical blind slats in the fence wire horizontally all the way around from top to bottom to make a large basket. This 50 ft. roll will make you three baskets. Be sure you locate each basket on level ground. Fill each basket with leaves,any kind except pine needles, and keep adding leaves for at least 2 weeks as they settle. This is very, very important because the leaves will pack down like a sponge. At the end of 2 weeks put at least 6 inches of planting soil on top covering the entire surface over the leaves. You must plant now because the weight of the soil will press the leaves down further and it will be hard to plant reaching over the fence wire after it settles. It will continue to settle for about 2 to 6 weeks depending on the type of leaves and the amount of rain. It should stop settling at about a 3 ft. height or waist height, ideal for those using wheelchairs. After the soil has settled to this point cut the top 10 inches of the fence wire off leaving 2 inch pieces sticking up all the way around, about 90 pieces. Bend these down inside to avoid being cut by the sharp ends. Save the part you cut off for use later. In 2 to 3 years it will have settled to about 2 ft. or less. This is slow composting also known as anaerobic digestion. In the end you end up with good humus. When you are ready to start over just lift the wire cage off leaving a large cake of humus, set the cage in a new location, put the 10 inch piece back on top, fill it with leaves, keep adding leaves for 2 weeks, add 6 inches of soil and you’ve started all over again. Plant

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