My backyard is surrounded by majestic 100+ year old Oak trees. Which is all wonderful and nice until they dump bushels of crunchy brown leaves burying my garden every fall.
But a resourceful gardener will see those leaves as dollars gently swaying onto their lawn (probably more like pennies but the analogy is not as effective). Leaves can easily be turned into beautiful dark brown leaf mold compost that improves soil structure, increases water retention, and encourages life in the soil. All you need is a little space and patience.
We call it leaf mold because the leaves are breaking down without adding food scraps and other materials like in a compost bin. Of course you can still add leaves to your regular compost bin but most of us have more leaves than would ever fit in our backyard composter.
Leaf mold is very easy to make, basically just pile the leaves and let them decompose. However, for those of us without a great abundance of space and patience here are some good tips:
1. Make a “cage” 3ft x 3ft with stakes and chicken wire (both square and round will work)
2. Shred leaves with a lawn mower or weedwacker
3. Put leaves in cage
4. Keep leaves moist
Dead leaves are almost completely carbon so it could take a while for them to decompose. Shredding the leaves and keeping them moist will speed up your waiting time from two or more years down to less than a year.
If you’re like me, you’re staring at the giant mountain of leaves in your backyard thinking that you could probably supply the entire neighborhood with leaf mold once your finished. Don’t worry, once you shred the leaves they compact significantly. But if you still have too many leaves to compost yourself, there are some communities who will collect your leaves and compost them.
Here is a list of all Hamilton County communities and their yardwaste collection policies: http://www.hamiltoncountyrecycles.org/index.php?page=curbside-collection.