Handy Hints | Landscaping and Garden

How To Turn Leaves Into Compost

compost

Creating Compost From Leaves Is Not Hard To Do And It Saves Money

Let me show you how easy it is to turn your yard waste into compost so you can stop paying for it every year.

Often times we overlook gold just because it’s dirty or too grimy of a job but why buy city compost when you can make it yourself.

It’s that time of year when the leaves have already turned colour and a there’s a good splattering over most people’s lawns that have 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 so I can use my garden budget for other purchases.

Understanding Compost

What is Compost?

Compost is organic matter that has been decomposed in a process called composting. This process recycles various organic materials otherwise regarded as waste products and produces a soil conditioner. Compost is rich in nutrients. Wikipedia

Raking The Leaves For Compost

What do I do to save me money in the Fall? I take what I have and turn it into gold.

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 and baskets. 

I’ll then re-fill the compost bin with the leaves from the garbage bags interspersed with other roughage.

The half rotten mixture will take no time at all to rot down once the weather warms up and you’ll have gorgeous soil.

Hanging Basket with Flowers 2012

Purpose Of Bagging Leaves

Why should you put leaves in plastic garbage bags?

The reason I don’t throw the leaves away in brown yard waste bags is the number of nutrients they’ll add back into the garden for next year.

If you’re 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 the 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.

Have you just finished taking your yearly hanging baskets apart? 

Here’s what you do now.

Take the compost and annuals and throw them back into the compost bin/heap.

Compost bin with organic waste in the topI remember when I was 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 city compost truck comes to collect your leaves or even your green organic 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.

Yes, that city compost you buy is from the leaves you give them which they sell to a company. 

Smart isn’t it?

Oh, and we also pay the city workers to pick up the leaves that we buy back.

Beautiul Dark Soil Made In Your Compost Bin

Rotted down to good compost at the bottomIn 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.

How To Make Good Garden Compost

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 the 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 raccoon.

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 from either sheep or horse 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.

Collecting Rain Water

I usually add water from the rain barrel as rainwater is a natural source of nitrates (a form of nitrogen) required by plants to grow.

An alternative to adding nitrogen to your compost is adding nettles.

Consequently, a good homemade plant fertilizer can be made from the common stinging nettle Urtica dioica due to a large amount of nitrogen it contains.

Nettles are native to North America as well as Europe and Asia.

Hard Work Equals Big Savings

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!

Discussion: Do you compost your leaves in the Fall? Leave me your comments below.

Mr.CBB

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25 Comments

  1. The leaves from the big oak trees here in Florida are very acidic. We burn them first to help break them down and then spread them around our acid loving plants. Crepe myrtle and azaleas love ashes!

    1. Thanks Daisy. That’s just it, learning all these tips will save you some money. It’s crazy the things we used to spend money on and we don’t any more like.. making our own fabric refresher…. fabric softner, baking soda and water… doh! Cheers mate. Mr.CBB

  2. This is great! I have always wanted to do this, but I don’t have very much room.

    Do you find that it smells at all? Seeing as I live fairly close to my neighbors I wouldn’t want to offend them with any foul odors.

  3. Great idea. I now have a garden that is green 12 months a year and know I’ll miss the seasons. I love autumn when leaves fall down. Such a beautiful time of year. Guess I’ll have to get creative with compost!

      1. Doing great so far, I am using those green leaves to thatch my roof! I am going to town tomorrow to buy some seeds and start at least the herb garden (basil, mint, coriander…) although I have no idea what grows well around here. What do you have planned for the week?

        1. Gosh no thatched roofs around here that’s for sure. We just got back from IKEA was looking at kitchens. I’m in the midst of renovating the bathrooms. It’s been raining most of the day here but to me it’s no different than being home in the UK, blah and uninteresting… I have chives and parsley we brought in for the winter and they are doing perfect indoors. All year round would be great, snow fun has worn off.. lol

  4. This is great advice! We really want to have a garden for the first time so any advice is appreciated! Thank you!

  5. We have two composters but right now they have been taken apart to clean out and I’m hoping the boys can get things cleaned out and back together before things freeze up. We don’t have the land for trees but we have the trees around us land on our grass. The local raccoon population can’t get into our composters as we used cotter pins to hold the lid on and we put the garbage can up out of reach too…… They are not happy about that… too bad….so sad…Lol!!

  6. A few more posts of this nature and even this clumsy gal will have developed her very own green thumb. Makes me want to collect leaves down the street and get some composting/soil going for next year’s projects. What a GREAT inspiration this was!

  7. Nice post. Thankfully we don’t have a whole lot of leaves to worry with. Our neighborhood is new enough not to have huge trees that produce a lot of leaves. What we do have we tend to throw in our compost.

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