Composting allows decomposed materials to be
reused as a nutritious supplement for your garden, lawn, and
house plants. A variety of materials may be used for composting,
including leaves, grass, weeds, and some kitchen scraps. Autumn
settling in and the leaves filling your yard is a perfect time
to begin composting. Composting provides a useful and environmentally
conscious alternative to bagging up your leaves and sending them away as waste.
Once you begin the process, it can become a part of your annual seasonal routine.
Many people chose to either burn leaf piles, which happens to be
illegal in some states, or bag them up to be hauled away.
These choices do not have environmental or economic benefits.
However, the leaves you take from your yard and compost this fall
can help beautify your yard in future seasons by enriching your soil.
This is an attractive alternative to polluting the air, risking a fire,
or contributing to landfill crowding. Composting also provides a cost
effective means of yard beautification. Help the environment and your
budget by recycling your leaves.
Buy a composter or make your own composting bin. Build a composting bin
with stakes and mesh wire or snow fencing. Do not locate your bin near other
structures or combustible materials.
In order for the composting process to work effectively,
follow these guidelines suggested by Rutgers Cooperative Research & Extension:
- Size matters.
Your leaf pile should be four to 10 feet around and three to five feet high.
A correct pile size ensures proper temperature and air flow needed for composting.
- Keep your pile moist. You will know your pile contains enough moisture if
you can squeeze a few drops of water from a handful of leaves. Do not add too much water.
- Do not compress your pile.
- Shred the leaves prior to adding them to your pile. This helps speed up
the composting process. You can shred them by raking dry leaves into a pile and
them mowing them with a mulch mower.
- Rotate the leaves in your pile. Try to move the outer layer to the center.
Rotate the leaves each month in warm weather. Do not rotate the leaves as
often in cool weather or the pile temperature may be disturbed. Do rotate
the leaves if you smell an ammonia or other bad odor coming from the pile.
Your completed product should yield a pile of compost about half the size
of the original leaf pile. The composting process takes between four and nine
months to complete. Your colorful fall leaves should now be a dark and crumbly
material with an earthy odor. When the season changes to fall once again, use
your compost as winter mulch or add it to garden soil with a tilter to help get
your soil ready for your spring planting.
Composting at home is not for everyone. There may still be a way for
you to contribute positively to your community by not burning leaves or sending
them to a landfill. Some communities have initiated community composting centers.
The finished product is available to be re-spread throughout the community.
Inquire about community composting with your community officials or local recycling
center. If this option is not currently available in your community, you may be able
to initiate composting for your community.
- New York State Department of Environmental Conservation: Everything You Have Always Wanted to Know About Home Composting
- New York State Department of Environmental Conservation: What to Do with Fall Leaves
- New York State Department of Environmental Conservation: Composting at Home
- Rutgers Cooperative Research & Extension: Backyard Leaf Composting
- Alabama Cooperative Extension System: Recycling Leaves
Article written by - Kristin Black