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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Compost the Leaves of Summer

Ozarks Gardening
Copyright Jim Long, Oct 31, 2010

The Leaves of Summer

I’m sure leaf raking is great exercise and I’m sure I could benefit from more of it. The fact is, I really don’t like raking leaves and so I look for ways to not have to do it. I use a leaf blower when the leaves are newly fallen and still dry. If a stiff wind is blowing, all the better, hustling the leaves off down the hill. But more likely that would-be welcome wind blows the leaves right back again.

We have a lot of trees in the lawn. Several oaks, a couple of hickories, a silver maple, 2 native hard maples, several dogwoods, redbuds and assorted pine and cedar trees. When fall comes, there are enough leaves to fill a large dump truck, two or three times.

I used to rake the leaves into piles, haul some away on tarps and burn the rest in the driveway. But that meant a lot of raking, piling, tugging and emptying, not to mention piles of ashes and burnt gravel from the fires. Now I use the leaf blower to get the piles of leaves away from the buildings and into windrows. Then I use the riding lawn mower to chop them over and over into mulch. I start when the leaves begin to fall and repeat the operation several times over a few weeks until I’ve chopped up all the leaves from the now-bare trees.

But the next part of my little operation is the best. I rake the chopped up mulch into plastic garden carriers and take them to the compost pile. Once the leaves have been chopped into smaller pieces, even the big, leathery oak leaves will compost. I mix the chopped up leaves into the compost pile, along with some grass clippings and a bit of chicken manure from the barn. I turn over some of the older compost on the far end of the compost pit, then I leave it for winter. By next spring I’ll have compost that I can add to my garden soil. And I’ll feel like I’ve accomplished something beyond just getting rid of the leaves.

This summer while in Dallas for a writer’s conference, our conference group visited a variety of substantial home gardens. One of those, a multimillion dollar house, had a big compost pile in their back yard, not unlike mine. All of their grass clippings, leaves, vegetable peelings and coffee grounds, went into their compost. I figure if a fancy place like that home in Dallas can do such a good job of composting, then my method of getting rid of leaves and making compost isn’t too far off the mark.

Want to know why leaves change colors? Go here.
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