Piles of colorful leaves are popping up along the streets in our neighborhood. It’s time for the annual city-wide leaf vacuuming. The city runs a large composting facility and interested gardeners can buy the finished product. Here’s how it works:
- I rake or blow my leaves to the curb.
- Raleigh hauls them away. (The fee is covered in taxes and charges on the water/sewer bill.)
- Raleigh makes compost from the leaves, yard waste, and other organic components.
- Raleigh sells the compost back to me.
Wouldn’t it be nice to eliminate the middleman? In this two part article I will explain how to transform fall leaves into homemade compost. The benefits are extensive:
- I get a free workout without a gym membership.
- I invest time in the great outdoors, away from the desk and computer.
- I create a supply of free compost for my garden.
- I know there is no sewer sludge or other non-desirable elements in my compost.
- Environmentally friendly earthworms take up residence in my garden beds.
- A sense of accomplishment floods my soul as I spread that black gold across my garden.
- Composting is good for the planet.
We’re going to turn this:
There is no time consuming bagging. No dodging leaf piles as I enter and exit my driveway. No waiting for the city’s vacuum truck to visit. Are you interested? Let’s get started.
The Fall Leaf Collection
Leaf compost starts with leaf collection. That sounds more uptown than “raking the yard.” Our leaf season runs from October through January and passes over a couple of major holidays. This is a busy time, daylight is at a premium, and some shortcuts in yard work would be nice. The 4 major actions in leaf collecting are blow, mow, rake, and ice the aching back. I use a mulching mower with a bagger to gather and chop leaves in one smooth motion. OK, that’s not true. It’s more like:
- Start the mower
- Push it 20 feet
- Stop the mower
- Empty the bag
- Repeat 1000 times.
Some days the leaf coverage is so thick I skip the mowing and use a rake.
I stack the harvest in the corner of my yard and wet the layers with a garden hose. Wet leaves will not blow, eliminating the need for a tacky blue tarp. Wire cages can be used to corral the leaves if the herd is small.
For several weeks collecting and piling are the extent of my leaf activities. But composting, a natural process, is already beginning inside the damp leaf pile. Walk out there on a frosty morning and turn several layers over. Smell the organic aroma. Now go make a pot of chili or vegetable soup and be proud of your efforts to save the planet.
I can ignore these leaves for a couple of years and they will become compost all on their own. I have a small yard with little room for leaf piles so I prefer to hit the accelerator. In part 2 we will discuss ways to accelerate the composting process.