Quick Leaf Composting
Autumn leaves are a great source of carbon for composting. Composting with a bin or in a contained area is ideal for quicker leaf decomposition. Popular methods of composting large quantities of leaves include using a grass trimmer in a large garbage can to thrash the leaves into smaller pieces, or simply running a lawnmower repeatedly over the leaves until well mulched. Both methods increase the surface area for microbes and organisms to break down the leaves during composting.
To compost leaves most efficiently without a bin, loose leaf piles should be at least 4 feet in diameter by 3 feet in height with a maximum size of 5 feet by 10 feet. Unless leaves are collected in a very wet condition, add water while placing them in the pile. Without moisture, the microorganisms will not function. Moisten to the point where it’s possible to squeeze droplets of water from a hand-held mass of leaves.
Dead leaves alone lack adequate nitrogen for rapid decomposition, so if speed is a concern, a high-nitrogen fertilizer added to the pile may hasten the process. While additives are generally unnecessary, the compost end-product will have a higher nutritive content for use in next season’s gardens. Add about one-half cup of 10% nitrogen fertilizer per 20-gallon can of compacted leaves. Remember that aeration (turning, poking) and moisture are keys to making compost happen!