Heirloom Expert: Using Leaves in Compost

What is the best way to incorporate leaves into garden compost?

  • Old leaves are great additions to garden compost, with the right mix of other materials.
    Photo by Fotolia/Jennifer Elizabeth

Can I use leaves from the yard to make compost? It seems they take forever to break down. — Laurie from Ohio

Laurie, leaves are a great addition to the compost pile, but they will compost more quickly when mixed with other ingredients like kitchen scraps and garden refuse. Leaves should also be shredded before being added. The smaller fresh material is, the quicker it will compost.

I have three compost piles made out of shipping pallets adjacent to the garden. It takes about a year to fill up number one; when it’s full, I start adding stuff to number two. When it’s full, number three gets the new material. At some point, number one is ready. The resulting compost is sweet smelling and nutrient rich.

Since I live in an oak forest, I have plenty of leaves to compost. I leave a shredded pile next to the bins. Every time I add the “green” stuff from the kitchen, I’ll add a handful of leaves which count as brown.

There is all sorts of information about what the ratio of browns to green should be, but I don’t pay much attention to that; I’m too busy and lazy. My goal really isn’t perfect compost; it’s just getting compost.

When deciding what is to be added to the pile, know that everything which once was living will become compost eventually. The only thing from the kitchen to worry about are meats, dairy and oils which can attract rodents. I do know gardeners who throw those things into their pile and don’t have problems.

11/9/2017 5:21:36 PM

I use diluted urine to speed up decomposition of leaves and limbs/twigs. I dilute it about 1 part urine in 9 parts H2O. For plant food I dilute it 1 part urine to 19 parts water. I also sprinkle dry molasses on the compost pile, and water in.

11/9/2017 5:21:34 PM

I commented earlier, and it is gone.

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