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Composting in place?  RSS feed

 
Stephen Ward
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Hi all

so.. I bought my first house last November and wow. so many leaves. I raked a couple of hours a day for a few weeks before I broke down and got a blower. lots of sticks too. I left them on the ground for a couple months after I moved in, so the grass came in where the leaves weren't and didn't where the leaves were. I ended up pushing the leaves around the base of the trees because the soil needs work but if it was all together it would be like 3x5x10 feet big. I'd like to get the leaves composted down instead of hauled away, but if I keep piling them around the trees I won't be able to plant anything around the trees, which I'd like to do.

Next year when the leaves fall, is there some way I can get them to compost in place fast enough that the grass can start coming back?

tl;dr: I have a lot of leaves that I'd like to compost without raking into a pile.
 
Becky Proske
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Location: Wisconsin, USA (zone 4b)
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Shred or chop the leaves so they are smaller so they will decompose quicker.

This reminds me of a TED talk about composting.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n9OhxKlrWwc
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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You can plant through the leaves you have around the trees, just pull them back and let the plants get established before pushing the leaves back into place.

Shredding new leaf fall will help but it is always best for grass to remove the leaves. Leaves, no matter how well they are shredded, will suffocate grass plants.
I would build a compost heap for the new leaf fall. If you are concerned about lawn looks then build a square to hide the leaf heap (compost bin)
We use pallets to build our heap bins, I just tie them together at the top and bottom. This makes it easy to get into to the heap when it is ready to use in the gardens.
You can add boards from other pallets so the ones you are using look closer to a fence.
This also looks great, hides the composting materials from view and helps build the heat needed for leaf breakdown.

I used to live in town and I had a four bin system set up, none of the neighbors ever complained about them.
I once tried just mulching the leaves on the lawn, I got to re-seed the next spring, leaving leaves on grass never works out well for the grass.

If you have a mower with a bagging attachment, that is the easy way to get all the leaves up and also makes it easy to pour them into a bin for composting.
If you add grass clippings as well, you will get plenty of heat up for hot composting and you will end up with a very nice finished compost.
 
Blake Wheeler
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Location: Kentucky 6b
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I bought a leaf blower that can be converted to a mulcher (works great btw). So I simply rake the leaves up, which I find easier than blowing anyway, run them through the mulcher then apply the mulch where needed.

Saves me money on mulch, plus I think the leaf mulch looks nice. I figured it would all blow away the first big storm we had but haven't had that problem at all
 
chad Christopher
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Location: Pittsburgh PA
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I agree with red, i have a huge stand of maple, with large thick leaves. They do a great job of holding back any new growth, but I do not wish to, or have enough biodiversity to let the leaves degrade where they fall, and create forest floor. Also limited space. I personally use a mower with a bag, the mower mulches the leaves much finer. I bag the leaves in breathable bags to use for my vermipost during the winter. Use some (most) to make super awesome leaf mold mulch. And a spread the remaining around the tree, well because it needs them.

When my garden was much smaller, i would place whole leaves in the paths of my garden. They did a great job of suppressing weeds, and keeping the paths from becoming overly compacted.
 
Declan Kelly
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Stephen Ward wrote:Hi all

so.. I bought my first house last November and wow. so many leaves. I raked a couple of hours a day for a few weeks before I broke down and got a blower. lots of sticks too. I left them on the ground for a couple months after I moved in, so the grass came in where the leaves weren't and didn't where the leaves were. I ended up pushing the leaves around the base of the trees because the soil needs work but if it was all together it would be like 3x5x10 feet big. I'd like to get the leaves composted down instead of hauled away, but if I keep piling them around the trees I won't be able to plant anything around the trees, which I'd like to do.

Next year when the leaves fall, is there some way I can get them to compost in place fast enough that the grass can start coming back?

tl;dr: I have a lot of leaves that I'd like to compost without raking into a pile.


Put mulching blades on your mower. It is good for your yard--free fertilizer.
 
R Scott
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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Leaves are meant to suppress grass by their design. You need to really amp up your biology to decompose them that fast, and have the weather work in your favor as well.
 
Tim Malacarne
Posts: 226
Location: South central Illinois, USA
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I made a compost ring out of 3' fence, was 17' in length. I bolted 2 X 2s to the ends of the fence wire with eye bolts. Bent the wire, use a steel stake through the "eyes" of the bolts. Pile the junk in there, when you're ready, pull the steel stake, move the fence, start over. Works fer me...
 
William Bronson
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Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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All of my raised beds are made off leaves, oak mostly.They have excellent fertility,great tilth and superior water retention.
I get mine pre-bagged from my neighbors.
Even without greens leaves well mixed with soil will turn out great.
 
Dave Dahlsrud
Posts: 498
Location: North-Central Idaho, 4100 ft elev., 24 in precip
26
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Run the leaves over with a bagging mower and pile them up. Leaf mold is fantastic stuff for your garden or to mulch around the base of your trees/bushes. They break down mostly through fungal decomposition though, so they're going to take a lot longer to be absorbed into the soil than your most common compost-ables.
 
Joe Camarena
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Do what this guy said. It works and you can put the fertility back where you need it.

Joe

Bryant RedHawk wrote:You can plant through the leaves you have around the trees, just pull them back and let the plants get established before pushing the leaves back into place.

Shredding new leaf fall will help but it is always best for grass to remove the leaves. Leaves, no matter how well they are shredded, will suffocate grass plants.
I would build a compost heap for the new leaf fall. If you are concerned about lawn looks then build a square to hide the leaf heap (compost bin)
We use pallets to build our heap bins, I just tie them together at the top and bottom. This makes it easy to get into to the heap when it is ready to use in the gardens.
You can add boards from other pallets so the ones you are using look closer to a fence.
This also looks great, hides the composting materials from view and helps build the heat needed for leaf breakdown.

I used to live in town and I had a four bin system set up, none of the neighbors ever complained about them.
I once tried just mulching the leaves on the lawn, I got to re-seed the next spring, leaving leaves on grass never works out well for the grass.

If you have a mower with a bagging attachment, that is the easy way to get all the leaves up and also makes it easy to pour them into a bin for composting.
If you add grass clippings as well, you will get plenty of heat up for hot composting and you will end up with a very nice finished compost.
 
Mike Feddersen
Posts: 356
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In the eastern United States I see gardens, pretty large areas sometimes, covered in black plastic. Is this for composting in place?

Also for the thread starter, I used to use a lawnmower to do the raking for me. I would go oneway across yard blowing all leaves and clippings to one area.
 
Dave Dahlsrud
Posts: 498
Location: North-Central Idaho, 4100 ft elev., 24 in precip
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I've always seen the black plastic used as mulch to stop unwanted plant growth. There would be some composting in place, but I don't think that is the primary pupose of the plastic film.
 
Eric Hughes
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Location: North Carolina
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I would love to see someone blowing leaves with a lawnmower haha! How long did that take?

The black plastic is not for composting, it literally just kills everything underneath it down to microorganism level if left long enough. It's a method used for killing weeds. Some people do it before starting a garden bed but honestly the best method is not to kill but to feed. Weeds occupy bare soil. They exist to fill certain niches in the biology of the soil. For example a lot of weeds are nitrogen fixing plants. If you have weeds in your yard it is because your soil is deficient in something.

As for composting, leaves are the easiest and cheapest material to build a lot of compost fast. If you don't plan on having a garden just chop them up where they fall. That's what would happen anyway if you weren't there. Nature knows what it is doing. If you plan on gardening, collect those suckers and make them benefit you. I'd go with the lawn mower bag method.

Ericdanielhughes
Student of landscape architecture
 
Blake Wheeler
Posts: 166
Location: Kentucky 6b
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The plastic is used as mulch. It also helps to warm the soil allowing you to get crops in a little bit earlier than normal. Like mentioned it's long term effects include killing practically all the life in the soil....lifeless soil = dirt and the two are VERY different things
 
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