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how do I compost lots of leaves??


Joined: Sep 29, 2010
Posts: 1
I live in a subdivision with pople(aspen)oak,maple trees and have 6 to 10 cubic yards of leaves each fall...burning is frowned upon and paying to have them hauled away gets expensive .....how does one turn this many leaves into something useable for lawn food
Brice Moss

Joined: Jul 28, 2010
Posts: 700
Location: rainier OR
find an outa the way place and pile them up, pile next years leaves right on top of em, then the spring after that rake off the recognizable leafs and take the black crumbly stuff to spread like fertilizer put the leaves back in the pile and put the new leaves on top.

or if you're not into raking mow every week in fall with a good mulching mower. just keep your blades sharp, I like to keep a spare blade so I can file the edge while I watch TV as its tedious, but a lot of towns have a lawnmower repair guy who will sharpen your blades for real cheap if you take it off and bring it to him
Karl Teceno

Joined: Mar 16, 2010
Posts: 91
Location: Portland Maine
I let my lawn grow longer than usual. Then I mow the leaves into windrows grinding them up. Then I rake up the ground up leaves and the cut grass. I alternate a layer of manure and a layer of the grass and leaf mixture. Usually by mid-spring it's ready.

Joel Hollingsworth

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
In a more urban/suburban context, coffee grounds might be more available than manure.

You might also try growing a nitrogen-fixer like clover or vetch to mix into the leaves.

"the qualities of these bacteria, like the heat of the sun, electricity, or the qualities of metals, are part of the storehouse of knowledge of all men.  They are manifestations of the laws of nature, free to all men and reserved exclusively to none." SCOTUS, Funk Bros. Seed Co. v. Kale Inoculant Co.
Al Loria

Joined: Apr 21, 2010
Posts: 395
Location: New York
Just dumped a load of coffee grounds into my compost tumbler.  Great for this time of year when then greens around the yard are hard to come by.  Also good on the compost pile.  Alfalfa pellets work well too.

The easy and lazy way is to let those leaves simply sit in a corner of your property.  I used to pile leaves at the edge of the lot, and only did it to get them out of the way.  Kept doing that for the 22 years we are here.  This year, after finding this site and learning about compost, I decided to take a look at the pile.  The worms and decomposition made the most incredibly dark, rich and fantastic compost.  I used it on the lawn, garden and with the plantings we had done this year.  Great getting something for nothing. 


Joined: Dec 03, 2010
Posts: 2
Location: Easton, Kansas
Goats love leaves!  I go into town in the fall and ask people if I can have their bags of leaves - assuming they have not put any kind of pesticide on their lawns. My goats think leaves are a wonderful treat, and goat droppings are great in the flower garden.

Beth Donovan
Handspinner, raiser of Angora Rabbits, Angora Goats and a bunch of fowl. Lots of dogs, cats and a couple of horses, too.
Easton, Kansas
Delilah Gill

Joined: Dec 03, 2010
Posts: 35
Location: Southern Georgia
Composting is relatively easy. You can do cold composting by simply piling up the leaves in a unused place on your property and leaving them to rot over the winter. It may take 6 to 8 months to rot out until the leaves are no longer recognisable. Tree roots love to grow into it, so if you want to use the compost for a garden, maybe consider placing them on a tarp or other surface.
Hot composting is a little more work, but the volume goes down quickly. A compost bin would be a good solution as to making a hot batch of compost. A good website that explains backyard composting in a cheap wire bin is: http://charmeck.org/mecklenburg/county/SolidWaste/homecomposting/Pages/Home.aspx
Check out the two videos.
There are as many recipes for composting as there are people. Its up to you how much work you want to put into it.
Jason Long

Joined: Dec 01, 2010
Posts: 153
Location: Davie, Fl
give them to me! I can not get enough of them. The amount of green I go through (I have about a 5gallon bucket 1-2 days filled with greens), I need a never ending supply

Create a new garden bed this year by sheet mulching. Build your piles four feet high, and watch them shrink down to 6inch 

Treehugger Organic Farms
Cory Arsenault

Joined: Mar 03, 2011
Posts: 55
Location: Ottawa, Canada
I just mow over mine and leave them there to add to the soil.  Grass clipping added to the mowed leaves is a good brown/green compost mixture!
Ken Peavey

Joined: Dec 21, 2009
Posts: 2253
Location: FL
If all you did was mow over the leaves in place instead of raking them up, you can achieve a fineness that will fall between the grass blades. It will rot down within a year and return all those nutrients to the soil to nourish the lawn. Youtube has a plethora of clips, run a search on Leaf Mulch. Alternately, if you mulched the leaves than added them to a compost heap you can reduce their volume to a quarter or less of their previous volume.

I spent much of the past week studying leaves. Besides sand, grass and hillbillies, it is the next most abundant resource around here. About half an acre here is forested primarily with water oaks. The forest floor is deep with leaves from the past couple of years. The drought for the last year and a half has slowed down decomposition, allowing them to build up. I have 3 acres of pasture surrounded on 3 sides by oaks for miles. Across the street is 75 acres of planted pines. The only limits on how much leaf volume I can gather are time spent and method used.

Oak leaves NPK: 0.8 0.35 0.2
CN: 40-60
pounds per acre: about 4000
acres available: several
total pounds available: many, many tons

Fact (not verified by me): 50% of the nutrients taken up by a tree remains in the leaves when they fall.

I have tried several methods of gathering.
Easiest: grab bags by the side of the road that others have raked up. God love em.
Lowest impact: mulching mower with a bagger, dump bag into wheelbarrel
Fastest overall: rake leaves onto tarp, drag tarp to heap, then mulch with the mower.

I've got 6 piles of leaves around here, plus a dump truck load of spent mushroom compost. It's starting to look like a humus farm. Most of these piles are nothing but leaves, some older than others. Left alone, these leaves will decay in 2-3 years, but this requires at least some regular rain. It's going slow, but takes no additional effort.

I have the main compost heap to which I add whatever greens I gather. This is coffee grounds, kitchen scraps, chicken litter, bull manure, and grass clippings. I'm in Florida, there are plenty of spots where the grass is green and still growing-I gathered up 4 heaping wheelbarrel loads just today 12/31. The main heap gets watered when I think of it, but for the most part it gets little attention. I keep the main heap in an area enclosed on 3 sides by pallets I screwed together to stay upright, about 12'x12'x4' high. The last batch took about 9 months to reach a point where I was comfortable using it. This had reduced to about 1/4 of the volume of the bin after much stuff was added over the course of the batch. That last batch was not mulched, all I did was dump out bagged leaves to fill the bin.

Last week I found a tarp in the big truck-it was under the seat. I thought my brother had 'borrowed' it. I had to apologize to him for all those things I said while I was looking for it. This allowed me to rake up a pretty big area, then drag the load over to the bin. I spread them out then ran over the things repeatedly with the mower, bag removed. To my excitement the mower shredded the leaves into tiny bits. I raked up several more loads and repeated the shredding, leaving me with an area about 20'x20', as deep as a cinder block, 8". The math says this is about 10 cubic yards, but it is still light and fluffy. Maybe 5 cuyds is more in line with reality.

Its a lot of leaves. Still, I didn't rake up half the area under the 3 oaks in the corner.

I ran some through a sifter made with 1/4" construction mesh. A good half of the material went through. The stuff that didnt I tossed down in the same spot so I can mow them some more if the urge strikes me. I sifted enough to fill a 5 gallon bucket so I could play with it some more. The finer the material, the faster the compost process. I expect this batch to run its course much faster than the last one. To achieve a blend of grass and oak leaves with a CN ratio of 30:1, 2 parts grass to 1 part leaves should be close. The problem I'm having now is the stuff is shredded so well it is difficult to scoop it up with a pitchfork. Instead of tossing the stuff in the bin, I'm building the heap right where it is.

The next problem is water. I filled a 16 oz solo cup with the fine sifted leaves, weight=4 ounces, then add a measured amount of water to try to estimate its water holding capacity. I ended up adding 16 ounces of water, filling the cup, without the leaves floating out. After two days I tipped up the cup, the lightest trickle came out. These things slurp up MASSIVE amounts of water. Once in the soil, the water retention property of this stuff should give the beds a big boost. My single data point experiment says 1:1 by volume, 1:4 by weight. I've got 5 cuyds of this stuff. For the amount of water this stuff will require for compost, I'll have to leave the hose running all night. I'll wait for the rain. For now, I gave it a spray while adding grass clippings.

I've been looking at leaves as a possible replacement for peat moss. With the finely sifted material, I think it might do the job in my potting soil mix. More examination and comparison needed here.

Seed the Mind, Harvest Ideas.
Jami McBride

Joined: Aug 29, 2009
Posts: 1779
I add them throughout the year to my chicken area - the chickens compost them and add a little something of their own. Turn them into soil in no time.

I live in the city, but it's very rural, living one street down from a wild mountain range. I have the city, which collects leaves from my rural neighbors, dump huge truck loads in my front yard. I use up three dump truck loads per year, could use more but my yard space only holds three.

I use the leaves as mulch and animal bedding too. Used to use shredded leaves for cat box litter, when I used cat boxes. I have so many uses for leaves that in the future when I get out on my own land I will plant trees just to harvest their leaves. From my experience they are a thousand times better than sterile wood shavings or sawdust in eliminating animal odors.
Karin Schott

Joined: Apr 19, 2012
Posts: 10
Location: Western foothills of Maine
Leaves can be used as mulch. Those trees pull so many nutrients from deep in the soil. If you combine mulching with no tilling you can avoid a lot of weeding. In the autumn I mow the leaves and mulch perennials and my garden beds after amending with compost and animal gleanings. I just pull a little mulch away from the soil to plant in the spring. Usually in the rows in my veggie patch so the rows are mulched. Then I collect leaves from the woods and missed spots and crinkle them up to sprinkle them over new spring growth that is a couple of inches off the soil.
Rich Pasto

Joined: Dec 13, 2011
Posts: 99
shredded leaves are like gardening gold. they need to be shredded in some manner because whole leaves resist breaking down pretty well, which is their natural job anyway.


For composting, you can make several large piles, and let them sit all fall winter and spring. The bottom will be composted by spring from the worms and bacteria. Use the rest for mulch or amendment. OR you can make smaller batches some people call "hot batch" - layering shredded leaves, coffee grounds, leaves, grounds. That will compost down in a few weeks.

Using shredded leaves as mulch is fabulous. Sometimes that's all I do if a bed needs amending because the worms that move in and colonize it will do the hard work. 3 inches of shredded leaves is a formidable weedblock, and after a year or two they are composted which you can leave in place or scoop up and use somewhere else.

I envy your access to leaves. They are so damn useful that I drive around in the fall looking for yards that have not been raked at all. I offer to vac up their leaves and bring them home.
subject: how do I compost lots of leaves??
silly knights