How I Compost Leaves

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*** Edited to include a link to the correct video!

Almost everyone else that I know puts their leaves in a big wire cage and then forgets about them for a few years. I don’t have the time or space for that, I want my leaves on the ground (in the form of compost) in 6-9 months time.

Last year I experiemented with ways to speed up the composting process and it worked well, so I’m doing the same this year. There are a few elements to the approach. First I try to add lots of nitrogen to the carbon rich leaves, I also make sure they are nice and wet, and finally I make sure they don’t just form a big airless clump.

These few techniques seem to speed things up nicely, the compost process runs very hot and bacause of that I get to add many more barrow loads of leaves to my bin during the first few weeks (when they are available). This means that I get to generate a full cubic metre of leaf compost, rather than 1/3 of that if I let the composting process proceed more slowly. Now I know that any pile of leaves will heat up, but my pile runs super hot for ages.

In detail then: I water the leaves with a horrible chemical nitrogen fertiliser that I won in a competition last year, I won’t let it near my plants, but I think it’s fine in compost; I add rock dust to the mix so that it’s converted into a plant accessible form during the composting process; my mix is 2/3 leaves and 1/3 manure rich horse bedding – for even more nitogen – and if I can get them I add grass cuttings too.

Once the bin has been refilled several times and starts to cool a little, I give it a turn and water with more nitrogen.

Once the bin has cooled fully, in a few months time I use it to fill my plastic compost bins. I consider these plastic bins to be for finishing, which just lets the compost rot down a little more and benefit from a lot of worm and fungal activity. When I fill these plastic bins I mix 5/8 garden compost, 1/4 leaf compost and 1/8 chopped seaweed from the beach together. I let these bins ‘finish’ for about 3 months.

The result is a fine compost with almost no visible leaves or wood chips (from the horse bedding), hopefully no weed seeds and lots of bioavailable minerals, bacteria and fungi.

If possible – it’s not been this year – I will try and get shredded leaves, or I will chop them up with a mower.

Take all this ‘advice’ with a pinch of salt. I don’t really know what I’m doing; I’m just impatient and like to experiment, it does seem to work though.

Steve Richards

I'm retired from work as a business and IT strategist. now I'm travelling, hiking, cycling, swimming, reading, gardening, learning, writing this blog and generally enjoying good times with friends and family

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