Here, the leaves are beginning to fall. It’s foggy in the mornings, and the rain has been falling. Oh yes, it’s time for my favorite time of the year: early fall.
Although I like the feeling of the seasons changing and the descent into a quieter time, fall is a good time for other reasons as well. It’s a time of abundance, when the harvest is rolling in. It’s also a time when the leaves are falling.
Leaves: Carbon Rich Compost Essentials
Why do I get excited about leaves? There are two reasons.
They’re wonderful as mulch in your garden beds. When you put your garden to bed for the winter, add a layer of leaves on top. These leaves will help protect your perennials against the winter’s cold, and they’ll also add nutrients to the soil as they break down.
Leaves are also the perfect ingredient for compost. Much of our household waste is rich in nitrogen. That rotten lettuce from the kitchen is chock full of it. While nitrogen is excellent in the compost, we also need “brown” materials, or carbon. If you only have “green” or nitrogen-rich materials, your compost can get wet, slimy, and stinky. Together, the two ingredients get hotter faster and create a balanced compost that works well.
Storing and Using Your Leaves
Collecting leaves in the fall just makes sense for your garden. Perhaps you’re lucky enough to have a lot of leaves on your property. Rake them up into piles and store this precious carbon in bins. Store your leaves in a container such as an old garbage can that sits next to the compost. This allows for each access and also allows air to flow through the bin. Every time you place vegetable material into the bin, add some carbon-rich leaves as well.
Tips for Savvy Leaf-Collecting
- Your compost makes soil, and your soil goes into your garden, where your vegetables use it for food. You want your leaves to be good quality. Check local regulations. Are you allowed to collect leaves from public parks? Perhaps your child’s school would like someone to help clean up the school grounds, and in return you could collect the leaves? Or maybe a friend would like a bit of free raking? There are many sources of leaves, and oddly enough, people don’t seem too concerned about giving them away.
- Make sure that you have good quality leaves. Avoid areas that have been sprayed, or places where the leaves might be contaminated by garbage or dog droppings. You don’t really need those in your compost.
- It’s best if you store leaves that are only slightly damp. Pack them down into the container, squishing them with your hands and feet. One container can hold a lot of leaves if you squish! If you have dry leaves that are hard to pack down, strap the lid down with a bungee cord or place a weight inside on top of your leaves.
- Watch for leaves like those of black walnut, because they can stop other plants from growing. Avoid putting acidic coniferous needles into the compost. You’re looking for deciduous leaves. Read More: Don’t Put these Plants in Your Compost
It’s almost fall – how are you going to love your leaves this year? Those tiny, carbon-rich leaves are big helpers in your compost in the spring time, so start storing them now.