You might want to be thoughtful about how you add the leaves. As you probably know, the decomposition of leaves (like that of woodchips etc.) ties up nitrogen for a while. There are different ways to mitigate this. Depending on your climate, adding the leaves late in the season may be enough, as they can then break down over the winter. This is my main method. Another possibility is to add nitrogen in the form of golden tea (9:1 water:urine) or something else to prevent a lack during the period of breakdown.
Testing is often recommended but to be honest we still have never done it and our garden plots produce just fine (after adding a lot of organic matter, manure, planting green manures, and so on). I'd go ahead and give it a try right now and see what happens. If you have trouble or just want to do better, you can always get a test later.
I imagine you want to add compost to improve your soil so plants grow better. This is true, and it will help, but if there are mineral deficiencies in the soil, compost is likely not going to raise the levels of those deficient minerals. I guarantee you there is at least one mineral deficiency in the soil, as naturally occurring well balanced soils are for the most part long gone, and only occurred in a few regions across the globe. It may behoove you to get a $25 soil analysis so you have the data and you can make calculated mineral amendments, and add those when you add the compost, and then till all that in. That would really help your soil and reap the best rewards if you plan to grow food crops in this soil.
Edit: I didn't mean to repeat what Chip wrote, I believe we were typing at the same time
I believe Elaine Ingham has gone so far as to claim that no soil needs mineral amendments if there is sufficient soil life present. Personally I take that to mean 'it's hard to overstate the value healthy soil life has in the flourishing of plants".
I used to "till" amendment into the soil, now I just add it on top.
This is supposed to minimize how much nitrogen is tied up by unfinished compost.
I might till the plot just before first frost and then top dress. I think most of what you till in at that point will be nitrogen heavy or balanced.
Dar Helwig wrote:Is it nessessary to know my soil content before I add compost, etc to it or is it ok to just go ahead and add organic matter? I have soil that was added as fill when the house was built in the 1980s. Its a little clayie and also medium dark. I want to add the contents of my compost pile to it and till it in. I also plan to mulch up a lot of leaves this fall and add them either in the fall of wait till spring. They will not be composted but just shredded well.
It isn't necessary to have a soil test in hand to start making improvements to soils.
Compost is great and it can be turned into the soil or left on top as a mulch.
Shredded leaves are another story, if the plants these leaves came from had any sort of disease or insect damage then you could re-infect by using non-composted leaves.
If the leaves were nice and clean, then no worries, but if you can pile them up and wait, then you will also get to add the microbiota that wake up and grow during that piled up waiting period, along with some fungi that will grow from any spores present on the leaf matter.
Either way, the only harm could come from re-infection through using disease carrying leaves.
If your trees and plants are growing well, then I would not worry much and simply start making nice additions.
If you start seeing yellowing leaves or other anomalies, then let me know and I'll go through the sampling procedure for you, that would be when it would be a good thing to do.
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