It’s Fall. The leaves fall. What can one do with all those leaves?
First of all they make great mulch.
Fallen leaves carry 50 to 80 percent of the nutrients a tree extracts from the soil and air, including carbon, potassium, and phosphorus. So why waste them? A two- to three-inch layer of leaves spread over a garden plot gives several benefits. Leaves hold down weed growth, add organic matter, and protect garden soil from compaction caused by rainfall. Just spread them around as-is.
Secondly, you could compost them.
Composting concentrates the nutrients and makes a product that is easier to handle and tidier-looking than whole leaves.
If you save or compost your leaves until spring, then they also add a natural beauty to your garden beds Use compost bins, or pile and cover leaves in an out- of- the -way place in your yard. A large size bin (5 or 6 feet across) will allow for rapid internal heating of the compost pile, which drives the decomposing process. Smaller bins will be slow to heat and will not be able to maintain processing temperatures through the cold winter. Bins larger than 6 feet across may restrict oxygen infiltration into the leaf pile, slowing decomposition.
Mix some nitrogen into the leaves as you add them to the pile. Leaves are high in carbon, which makes for great compost, but are comparatively low in nitrogen needed to feed the decomposing bacteria. This could be added as a nitrogen fertilizer or fresh green organic matter. For example, add 1-2 cups of lawn fertilizer, such as 34-0-0 or 21-0-0 (without any weed killers) per 4 bushel of leaves. Or add 1 part leaves with 2 parts fresh grass clippings or similar green garden debris.
Moisten the leaves as they are piled. Rains will be slow to wet through a leaf pile, and moisture is essential for decomposition.
Do not turn compost piles in the fall. This allows valuable heat to escape, which is needed to drive the process through the cold winter. However, compost piles should be turned in the spring in order to speed the decomposing process.
Leaves can be easily picked up with lawn mowers. The smaller pieces of mower-chopped leaves are faster to break down, too. But they can pack down tighter than whole leaves, restricting oxygen infiltration needed for decomposition. Be careful not to let them over-pack the bin, or settle too hard in the pile.
Following this simple plan, a gardener can produce fall leaf compost ready to use by the following late spring. Alone, a pile of leaves may take 2 to 3 years to decompose.