Good Life

Over the Garden Fence | Fallen leaves a good start to homemade compost

With fall comes the falling leaves. The question of what to do with all these leaves is a decision to be made by every homeowner. When I was growing up, the common practice in many communities was to rake the leaves to the edge of curb and burn them.

Today, many homeowners rake or use a leaf blower to move the leaves to edge of the yard and put them in a round wire container or leave them loose along the edge of the grass to be picked up by the local municipalities and then composted. If you are a gardener, you can make your own compost pile by gathering the leaves and other plant refuse from the vegetable garden and flower beds.

A compost pile is made up of layers. To make a pile, first take leaves and other organic material and make a layer about 8 inches deep. Sprinkle a complete fertilizer such as 5-10-5 at the rate of one-half pound per 10 square feet. I use dried blood or blood meal in place of synthetic fertilizer. Spread one-half pound of limestone to the layer. Then add a layer of soil and add some water to it. It is the layers of greens, browns and soil that you hear folks talk about when they make compost.

The fertilizer will hasten the decay and add value to the compost, because there’s only a small amount of plant food in leaves. The soil and water will hold the leaves in place, and the soil will provide micro-organisms to break down the leaves and other plant debris. Alternate the leaves, fertilizer, lime and soil and make a number of layers, one atop the other. Don’t forget to water each layer.

By spring, the leaves will be partially decayed and ready for use. Spade compost into the garden soil or around flowers or shrubbery. The compost will condition the soil, lower the soil temperature in hot weather, conserve soil moisture and help control weeds.

In addition to dead leaves, you can also make good compost from trimmings, dead flowers or even lawn clippings in the summer months. When mixed with fertilizer, soil and water, these materials will decay too, and next spring you can use this compost as a source of valuable organic matter for your garden.