How long does it take leaves to compost?

Discussion in 'Gardening and Agriculture' started by KensWife, Jan 7, 2009.

  1. KensWife

    KensWife Member

    I have been horrible at gathering my fall leaves for the compost pile. I will be doing that this weekend. I know it can take between 3 months to a year to compost leaves... does anyone have a trick to speed this process up?
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2009
  2. Canadian

    Canadian Well-Known Member

    Leaves on their own are pretty tough and take a while to break down. Throw other stuff in that you know will rot. Add in a bit of dirt too. Stir the pile every now and then to prevent fires and help break up the stuff as it breaks down. That's about it.

  3. TechAdmin

    TechAdmin Administrator Staff Member

    Did you add worms to your compost pile?
  4. The_Blob

    The_Blob performing monkey

    you could get a composter & tumble it every other day or so...

    adding shredded newspaper & urea(?) to the mixture speeds it along in larger manure composting applications

    physically shredding the leaves (lawnmower, chipper/shredder) will help too
  5. Magus

    Magus Scavenger deluxe

    Urine,stale cornmeal or a gallon of sugar water sprayed onto them speeds the process up very nicely!
  6. beericus

    beericus Well-Known Member

    ^^ thanks for those links, i just started with my leaves. dont really knowhat im doing though
  7. mosquitomountainman

    mosquitomountainman I invented the internet. :rofl:

    Composting is easy. Nature will do it for you if you just pile them up and leave them. However if you're in a hurry you'll need to incorprate some of the ideas mentioned. I always just mulched mine (pulled the lawnmower backwards over them) them pile them mixing dirt in with them as the pile grew. The dirt has the little critters in it that will hasten the decomposition. Turning them occassionally helps too but don't do it too often. It helps to have them slightly damp too. about a week or so after you've started your pile stick a steel pipe, rebar, or whatever into the center of the pile and leave it for a few minutes then pull it back out. If the center of the pile is hot it will heat up the metal. If it's getting hot in the middle it's working!
  8. Murph

    Murph Member

    Stop at the local coffee shop and ask for their grounds

    These are a great source of Nitrogen (green) to offset the Carbon (brown) in the leaves. I use about 20 pounds of grounds a week to keep my contained pile hot throughout the winter (mostly). During planting season, the grounds get added to compost/worm casting tea as they are a great bug inhibitor and quick source of N during the initial leaf out.

    The key for me is to keep enough leaves through winter to mix with the overabundance of grass/hedge clippings/tree trimmings/garden waste (all greens) during spring, summer and again in early fall. With a little luck and dilligence, I have kept a 3-5 yard pile of compost above 150F in the center for over 6 weeks. After the 6 weeks, it cools for a month and goes on the garden for fall planting as a nice crumbly material. I used to sift the pile, but the larger pieces break down in less than a year in the main garden anyway. Saves me about 30% more time.

    If only making leaf mold (leaf-only compost), make sure to stir the pile up on a regular basis. Leaves have a natural tendency to repel water after a few inches of depth. My first attempt at leaf mold left me with a big pile of dry leaves in the center compressed by the weight of snow and ice. I had to use a spade to cut it up and the center looked exactly the way it did when I pile dit 6 months before. Also, the type of leaf can affect the time and quality. Oak leaves are thicker than the "average" leaf and will take longer. Black Walnut has a chemical that will inhibit growth in other plants (juglen?). I use primarily maple and they work fine.
  9. lotsoflead

    lotsoflead Well-Known Member

    plow them under or roto til them in this fall.
  10. beericus

    beericus Well-Known Member

    My question is, what will i do with a compost pile? Should i just garden with it, with the amount of deer and other critters in my area, if i made a veggie garden it will just get eaten while i am at work. Any other reasons for composting?
  11. 41south

    41south Well-Known Member

    I rotate which areas of the garden I dump leaves in each year, and if you add some high nitrogen fertilizer to the leaves, it will speed the breakdown process up a bit.
  12. mosquitomountainman

    mosquitomountainman I invented the internet. :rofl:

    Composting is just a way to turn organic "waste," whether leftovers from the kitchen, leaves, grass clippings (watch out for herbicide and pesticide residue), old hay or whatever into high quality "dirt." Hot composting kills weed seeds so you aren't planting them in the garden or wherever you're dumping the compost.

    We use our compost in the veggie garden. You could also use it in a crop or hay field, pasture, flower bed, or anywhere you want the soil to be more fertile. As it composts it just turns into a type of high-quality dirt.

    We have a six foot fence around our vegetable garden and fruit trees to keep the deer out. We have electric wire around the top to keep the bears out.
  13. The_Blob

    The_Blob performing monkey

    I just let the dogs pee on it... :eek: :D ;)
  14. HozayBuck

    HozayBuck Well-Known Member

    Ok I'm sorry but I have to ask.. why not just dump them on your garden spot in the fall and till them in come spring? seems to me mother nature will deal with the problem????

    When I moved into my new home way back in 76 I drove past a tree trimming crew and stopped to ask where they were dumping the shredded stuff, they were driving several miles out to the dump, I showed them my place a block away and said feel free.. dump there...when I came back later I had a large area filled with the shredded waste..I raked it flat and even and forgot it... it sat thru the fall till spring.. when I decided to till the first garden it looked like it had all blown away, until the tiller tore into was black and not near as deep as it had been, after it was tilled into the earth we planted... that was the best garden I ever had..

    So.. I don't under the concept of all the composting issue.. if MA nature will do it just fine..? I'm not doubting, just asking why?...

    Please make the lesson short and use small words :D:D
  15. mosquitomountainman

    mosquitomountainman I invented the internet. :rofl:

    HB -that works great too. The only real advantage to hot composting is that it cooks the weed seeds so you have fewer problems with weeds cropping up. We've done the tilling under thing although I do it in the fall. I scattered some old hay on the garden once figuring to till it under in the spring but it insulated the ground and it took "forever" for the ground to dry out. I finally raked it all up and hot composted it. Hot composting is faster also.

    We also have an ongoing compost pile to throw thngs in that the goat won't eat. I empty it in the spring and spread the compost on the garden then.
  16. cqp33

    cqp33 Supporting Member

    I had a compost pile a few houses ago (active military so I move around a lot), I built a bin that was 5 foot square with gaps between the slats for good air movement and a side that was easily removed. I bought a bagger for my riding mower to catch the mulched grass and leaves and mixed them up in the bin all together. One of the biggest mistakes people make is with keeping a pile moist (moist NOT wet)! if you get rain then it may be ok, turn the pile by taking the bottom stuff and putting it on top, if the stuff in the middle is bone dry, needs more water or turning more frequently. remember too that a compost pile can get hot enough to combust if the mixture isn't right so be careful with that! If you keep the moisture right and keep the pile turned, leaves will be black rich dirt in about 2 months!
  17. bugoutbob

    bugoutbob Work in progress

    The question was asked ... do you add worms? No ... because ... A properly built compost heat will get too hot for worms, in fact it will stay above freezing most of the winter even here in Alberta
  18. Meerkat

    Meerkat Seeking The Truth

    We take a big piece of tarp or plastic and rake the leaves onto it so its easier to carry and we don't have to use a pitch fork to pick them up, just rake em onto the plastic.

    We do this every fall or here its actually every winter before they fall. We use one tumbler on a stand ,got that about 8 yr.s ago very expensive about $500 .The other two we got for $12 a piece. Those we use pitch fork to turn. or use them to store leaves in if not enough green around.

    We put kitchen scraps, no oil, dairy or meat of any kind in ours. We do use last years chicken manure.
  19. crabapple

    crabapple I sold my soul to the internet

    I am with The_Blob, no matter what you are composting you need to grind/shredding,Compost pile should have a 30:1 C/N ratio.
    Carob/browns ingredients 30 pounds to 1 pound Nitrogen/Green ingredients. You should have sufficient water, not wet ,but moisture in the whole pile. It will compost better if you turn it once a week, twice a week is better.