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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  1. Cynthia says:

    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!

  2. hello CBB! Have liked and shared with our https://www.facebook.com/ABCouponers fan page…got to think gardening now that the weather is FINALLY warmer..here in the Praries

  3. This is so cool! My aunt does compost with her food…never thought to use leaves before!

  4. I love how thrifty you are. I’m always trying to absorb things like this for when we have a house .

    • 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

  5. 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.

  6. 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!

    • Oh ya that’s right, you’re living the one season life now. How’s things going for you?

      • 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?

        • 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

  7. gregjohnson975182420 says:

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

  8. Christine Weadick says:

    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!!

  9. 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!

  10. John S @ Frugal Rules says:

    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.

  11. I need to be better at using my personal composter. I recycle well and use my green bin but suck at composting for personal use!

  12. That’s such a great idea! I was totally expecting something “crafty” when you said using the leaves, but this is even better! LOL, Thanks:)

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