Turning Leaves Into Compost- Where There’s Muck There’s Brass

Leaves for compost

It’s that time of year again….the leaves have already turned colour and a there’s a good splattering over most people’s lawns that have already fallen. So is now the time to save some money? Sure it is and here’s what I do to save me some money come spring.


Every year I collect up the leaves from the trees in plastic bags, wet them and tie them up with a couple of holes punched in the sides. I personally store them to over winter down the side of the house (mainly because my compost heap is already full), you could start compost heap number 2 if you like depending on the size of your garden. In the spring I’ll empty out roughly two-thirds of the compost bin for use around the garden/pots/baskets and then re-fill with the leaves from the bags interspersed with other roughage. The half rotten mixture will take no time at all to rot down once the weather warms up.

Hanging Basket with Flowers 2012


The main reason I don’t throw the leaves away in brown yard waste bags is the amount of nutrients they’ll add back into the garden for next year. If your able to grow your own vegetables or just like gardening then you’ll appreciate the benefits of recycling waste products from not only your garden but also your house. We try to throw as many fruit and veg odds and ends in the compost bin rather than the “green bin” as it will add “Free” goodness to the garden. If you’ve got a wood burning stove or fireplace you can add the cold ashes to the heap too. Just remember that ashes will be high in calcium carbonate so they will reduce the acidic level of soil. If you’re unsure what type of soil you’ve got then get a test kit. I already know that my soil is on the acidic side due to the fact that the Rhododendron is growing like a weed and the Hydrangea has a blue hue in the flowers. Just finished taking this years hanging baskets apart? Throw the compost and annuals back into the bin/heap.

Compost bin with organic waste in the top

I can remember when I was a lot younger that my gran used to be able to grow an enormous amount of fruit and vegetables in her garden without fail. The soil was dark and fertile, probably because her house was a Victorian semi and over the 90 year life span everything bio-degradable was thrown onto the garden.

When the local authority comes to collect your leaves or even your green bin on weekly basis what do you think they do with it? They might not use it themselves but they do sell it, why? Someone’s making money from it, how? The let it rot down and sell it back to you in a bag, how’s that for a money maker.

Rotted down to good compost at the bottom

In fact if you add a good mixture of ingredients into your compost heap and let it rot down properly you’ll have something just as good if not better than what you can buy in the store. Sure, you can buy soil for $0.99 a bag but it’s terrible, trust me I’ve bought it and regretted it. What I get from the compost heap is top quality well-rotted compost that would cost you $4.00-$5.00 a bag but I get it for free.

I got inspired by a man called Alan Titchmarsh who’s a horticulturist and ran a TV program on the BBC (The Beeb) called “Gardeners World” but he also went back to basics to teach/inspire a new younger generation with another TV show.

His ingredients for a good garden compost are:

  • Annual weeds
  • Tops of Perennial Weeds
  • Spent bedding plants (annual flowers that have finished)
  • Uncooked vegetable peelings, crushed eggshells and teabags
  • Grass clippings (they’ll add nitrogen)
  • Soft hedge trimmings, soft prunings and spent flowers (from dead heading)
  • Dead Leaves
  • Shredded woody stems
  • Shredded paper, cotton and wool fabrics

I probably wouldn’t throw in meat, fish and other cooked foods for fear of being invaded by the ubiquitous racoon. Don’t get me wrong the furry guy will love you to death, but your neighbours are going to be more than mildly annoyed.

Inside the compost bin

For a new compost heap/bin you can also add a couple of shovelfuls of fresh manure (horse or sheep) to get it started. Once you’ve got it going, just keep adding waste and water to keep it wet, if it dries out (especially in the summer) it will stop. I usually add water from the rain barrel as rainwater is a natural source of nitrates (form of nitrogen) required by plants to grow. An alternative to adding nitrogen to your compost is adding nettles. In fact a good homemade plant fertilizer can be made from the common stinging nettle Urtica dioica due to the large amount of nitrogen it contains. Nettles are native to North America as well as Europe and Asia.

If you use a rake, because rakes are cheaper than leaf blowers and they cost zero to operate, you’ll get some exercise out of the deal too. A bit of hard work is always more beneficial than convenience.

“There is no substitute for hard work” Thomas Alva Edison………..yes, the inventor.

There’s an old saying from northern England that’s quite appropriate at this point, “Where’s there’s muck there’s brass“….put quite simply, where’s there’s crap there’s money!

It's Not About How Much Money You Make It's How You Spend It

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