Every autumn, home owners rake up their leaves, place them in bags and put them out on the curb. Every autumn I gas up my mini-van, drive around my neighborhood and steal them. I’m a skilled leaf thief and can usually fill the van two or three times in a weekend. Unlike regular thieves, I don’t fence the goods on the black market because the leaves are more valuable to me and to my garden. Leaves are a great ingredient for making compost and gardeners can’t get enough of them.
A person becomes a leaf thief because you can only produce so much yard waste on your own. You rake up your leaves, mow your lawn, clean up your flower and vegetable beds and it just isn’t enough yard waste to make compost for a moderate sized garden. Remember that after it’s decomposed it’ll be a lot smaller. So when I see people throwing out this excellent garden resource I have to take the law into my own hands.
Not only is compost a nutrient rich soil amendment but it’s also a great soil enhancer. It can loosen up hard clay soil and it’ll allow sandy soil to retain more water. Compost can be used as a replacement for fertilizers and will also improve pH balance and soil fertility. And all of this means that you will have healthier plants and a nicer looking garden.
To make compost for the garden you’ll need to collect “Browns” (carbon-rich) and “Greens” (nitrogen-rich). Fill your compost bin with 1 part “Green” to about 20 parts “Brown”. With fallen leaves being a great “Brown” a large supply is a necessity for gardeners.
Without adding a source of nitrogen to your leaves you will get something called leaf mold when it decomposes. Leaf mold is still very good for your garden and can be used as a mulch. But if you want to make real compost and enjoy the full benefits that come with it then you’re going to have to add some “Greens” to the mix. The grass clipping from your lawn mower are a great source of nitrogen. Empty the lawn mower bag into your compost bin whenever you mow the lawn. Another good source of nitrogen is coffee grinds. Don’t worry if you only have a few cups a day, you can get more grinds from your local coffee shop or coffee chain store.
If you keep your compost pile moist and remember to turn it here and there you should have usable compost by the time spring comes.
If your neighbors aren’t smart enough to take advantage of their yard waste and make compost with it then it’s up to you to make sure these gifts from the trees don’t get wasted. Give those leaves a home in your compost bin and eventually in your garden. Your plants will thank you.
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