The gold, crimson and burgundy leaves of autumn are a pleasure to see atop trees. But when they fall to the ground, they can be a pain to rake and bag up. On the bright side, fall leaves are great for composting, adding rich nutrients to your garden's soil.
Compost fall leaves. Photo: Getty Images
If you started composting
last spring, chances are you've produced some rich nutrient rich soil since then. Now that fall is in full swing, the ground is covered with colorful leaves in various stages of decay. These can all be added to your compost.
While it's tempting to think that the leaves will naturally compost themselves, it's crucial that you control this process so that they don't grow mold or suffocate existing vegetation. There is no way around it, you'll need to rake up all those leaves. The good news is that all that hard work will show itself in rich compost that can be added back to your garden.
Annette Pelliccio is a national speaker and book contributor on the topic of composting and the founder of The Happy Gardener
. She explained to me the benefits of adding all these fallen leaves to your home compost.
Annette tells us that the brown material provides carbon and green material provides nitrogen. Both are important to the composting process and their balance is essential.
All of the fallen leaves (brown material) will give a perfect carbon balance to the
nitrogen-rich green matter that you added this Summer. Annette says "T
he time of year for leaves will determine what it brings to the compost."
It is recommended that you mulch the leaves before adding them to the compost. If you don't have access to a shredder, simply go over the leaf pile with your lawn mower to chew them up.
Feeling impatient or have more leaves than your compost can manage? Use the shredded leaves immediately as mulch
. This can extend the harvesting season for root vegetables by giving them protection through the winter. This process may deplete the soil of nitrogen, so you'll want to add some nitrogen fertilizer to compensate for that this Spring. Take care not to place excessive mulch on the crowns of herbaceous perennial flowers as it could potentially cause root-rot.