Most people might not know that all the leaves that end up in the yard during fall season might be useful and work as compost and benefit your plants.
Wait, you didn’t know that either? Is that why you clicked in this post you wannabe gardener? Then keep reading to learn the benefits of composting leaves!
What the Heck is Leaf Composting?
Leaf composting is the method of composting fallen leaves from the same or various trees. Leaves can provide nutrients among other good benefits to your plants. So, you just throw leaves all over your garden and call it a day, right? Nope!
We’re sorry to say it might not be as simple as it sounds.
When composting leaves, you have to find the balance between carbon, nitrogen and moisture for it to work well.
So, how to do it?
How Does Leaf Composting Work?
We know the following information might sound complicated. But composting leaves doesn’t have to be difficult at all. Once you understand how it works, you’ll be composting leaves in your sleep. (We hope not, but you could!)
Storing your Composting Leaves
First, having a way to store your leaf compost is crucial. You can make a bin to store the leaves, buy one, or create a pile of leaves. (Keep reading for important information).
Some gardeners have tried to use a simple bag to compost leaves but it didn’t work as expected. For normal, moist climates, the Cornell University Cooperative Extension recommends storage that supports air circulation.
The size of the compost bin is also important to maintain a 60° F (15° C) temperature, approximately.
Some gardeners say a composting bin of 3×3 feet provides enough space to give it a shake and some turns to provide air circulation and distribute moisture.
If you decide to create a pile of leaves, you might need a tumbler. And you also need to know you will have to place the pile in a spot with partial sunlight, because too much sunlight will dry the leaves.
But the leaves can’t be out in the rain either. Choose a location with good drainage so the excess moisture can drain into the soil.
A compost pile should not be placed next to concrete, cement, or asphalt.
How to Actually Compost the Leaves
Now, after you get your leaves (or steal them from unsuspecting neighbors, we see you), you have to shred them into small pieces and mix them with sources of nitrogen – grass clippings, kitchen waste (the composting leaves need to be gluten free and vegan, by the way; no bread, no meat and no dairy).
But it’s not as simple as it sounds: you need a good ratio of carbon-heavy materials and nitrogen-heavy materials. (Dramatic music). Just kidding.
It is simple, really: you need a good proportion of leaves and other materials.
If you have a bunch of kitchen waste (vegetables, fruit peels, a little bit of coffee ground…) you will add around twice as much as there are dry leaves.
So, the ratio is: 2 (kitchen waste, grass clippings, etc): 1 (leaves).
Always observe if it’s working well or not and adapt accordingly.
Composting leaves can take up to a year.
It takes time for the leaves to decompose.
It’s also important to turn the leaves around and make sure they’re moist, at least twice a month, to speed up the process.
Benefits of Composting Leaves
Composting Leaves Improve Moisture
The amount of moisture a plant needs varies from plant to plant. But in general, plants that are outside or by a window need more moisture than plants that like partial sunlight, such as succulents.
Since most plants don’t store water such as succulents or cacti, they need other ways to keep moisture, and composting leaves can help with that.
They create a coat, so to say, that keeps the moisture in the plant preventing the plant from drying.
Composting Leaves Help Soil Porosity
Soil needs air flow (that’s why repotting plants is necessary). The ability to transmit water, air, and nutrients into the soil is dependent on the porosity of the soil.
Composting leaves can help maintain the soil porous.
Composting Leaves Improves Soil pH
Usually, soil should be at 5,5 and 6,5 pH. Leaf compost helps with that.
Composting Leaves Prevents Erosion
Compost strengthens and replenishes the soil, making it more resistant to wind and water damage.
Composting Leaves Provide Nutrients Organically and Chemical Free
Leaf compost provides nutrients to the plants without also “providing” things that might be counterproductive. They are a clean (even if dirty, ha) source of nutrients for your plants.
Just Throw It in the Compost Pile!
Just ate an apple? A banana? A tomato? Throw what’s left into the leaf compost bin!
It’s a practical way to reduce waste, while also reducing the number of leaves that go into landfills.
You can check out more benefits of composting leaves in this video.