If you have trees you will have leaves in the fall. When you start raking it can look like an endless job, with very little payback. Not true. The truth is that if you have a garden and trees you can have soil enriching compost. I harvest lots of leaves every fall.
We have lovely neighbors on both sides of our garden and they both have trees. Our Northern neighbor has a beautiful giant maple right next to our property line. Lovely shade in the summer. Our Southern neighbor has three giant oak trees her husband planted more than 40 years ago. All these trees give us leaves and seeds that have spent the season supplying birds, and all manner of pollinators. We have our own trees from the river birches that we planted in 2015, and a Chinese chestnut tree on the west border of our garden. We also have many shrubs that shed their leaves as well.
In front of the house we have a Sycamore tree that is 51 inches in diameter and about 90 feet tall, statistics just given to us by the town Tree Committee. The sycamore not only sheds its leaves, it also drops spiky balls that hold the seeds. The tiny hairs on the seed balls can irritate skin and can cause some respiratory distress. My husband always wears a special mask when he is raking around the sycamore.
The Lilac Tree, is a real tree, Syringa reticulata. It does have unique white blossoms that give us a delicious fragrance perfuming the air in early June. Unless you are a neighbor you will not know where that perfume is coming from.
I’m not sure who owns the horse chestnut tree, but were certainly do get a lot of its leaves, as well as chestnuts that keep the squirrels very busy and happy. Unfortunately, there is some kind of blight that discolors and dries the leaves long before shedding season. That blight can continue to harm the tree if the leaves area composted. We rake up as many leaves as we can. We are not done yet this fall. We put those leaves in garbage bags and leave them out with our trash to be burned or destroyed. They do not go into our compost bin.
This little collection of compost bins has different purposes. The two plastic bins handle our kitchen scraps with leaves added. One bin is always being filled while the other bin has usable compost. Both bins get stirred up periodically to make the composting process move along.
That big black bag is a Smart Pots product and we load it with leaves every year or two. That Compost Sak and the handmade wire compost bin do cold composting. The leaves in the wire bins break down more quickly than you might imagine. We can keep adding leaves for quite a while. Usually we can use the composted leaves from the wire bin the following fall, if you stir them us periodically. In fact an aerater tool does exist and it would really move the process along.
We also dump leaves in back of the hugel. https://mgsoc.info/2019/01/hugelkultur-what/. Our yard is very wet. We created the hugel to raise the wettest part to make it usable for plants but we (unfortunately) left a kind of trench behind the hugel. Our new project if filling that trench with leaves and small branches.
This is the large compost pile which began very early this year. There are some branches underneath the dead plants and leaves. I have the hope that there will be some aeration that will help the pile turn into compost a little more quickly. This pile will take at least two years before be can spread the compost.
We have three short rows of raspberries that got totally out of hand because of poor pruning. I just performed the proper pruning – and the raspberry harvest in 2021 should be more easily harvested. These bushes were planted two years ago in this spot because they were more tolerant of wet soil. The blueberries we had originally planted did not thrive there at all.
The raspberries are now pruned for a happier harvest in 2021. Some of the leaves and old canes are left on the ground. We make compost wherever we can, and the plantings seem to approved.
We are not done raking all our leaves yet, but we are already looking forward to the rains, and snow that will feed the composting process. Next fall there will be new compost.
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Leaves really are magic. They enrich the soil like nothing else. Hugs.~~Dee
Dee – All these leaves surprised me. When we lived in the country, on a hillside, we lost all the leaves to the wind, but now we are improving our soil.
I choose this topic because I can fit it in around my other duties and write about it in the evening. I like to think that I know something about compost as I have made it all my life. We have a lot of trees and the soil washes away. Now we make it better for our trees and get rid of it. I am a gardener and I make my living at it. The university asked me about tree leaves so I write about tree service Vancouver. The trees begin to grow in the spring and need air, water, and food. Their roots go down into the ground for these things. Their leaves make their food.
Haydee – Thanks for the additions to my tale of making my own compost.
I just read your article about composting and I have to say it was really great. It’s always a good idea to learn more about how we can create healthy soil for our plants and gardens.
As you know, there are many ways of composting but no matter what type of system you use, the most important thing is that organic materials like leaves, twigs or grass clippings break down into rich fertilizer. The best way to get organic material is by raking up fallen leaves in fall or collecting dead plant parts in spring (and don’t forget those pesky weeds!).
Fraser – We are in total agreement. Even as I speak we are working our way through an old wood pile (small wood mostly) with all its old leaves and spreading this compost around the garden. Thanks for visiting.
First of all thank you so much for your blog post. I found it very useful and am eager to start composting leaves after reading your article!