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Using Autumn’s Bounty

Leaves, easily turned into protective mulch, soil-enhancing leaf mold or rich compost, are the fall season's gift to the composter.

Autumn LeavesBy Bill Kohlhaase, Planet Natural

After the last tomatoes are picked, the standing greens harvested, the squash brought in and the carrots pulled, nature provides a bounty that assures the next year’s crops will have the best soil possible. Let your non-gardening neighbors curse autumn’s raking tasks. Composters rejoice in the piles of mineral-rich organic material that trees graciously shed just for them.

Okay, okay, maybe that’s a little too much hyperbole. Still, it’s hard not to get poetic about leaves. Sure, raking can be hard work even for composters who know the value in each and every leaf. But leaves have long been a treasure for the gardeners: easily available, rich in nutrients, an effective mulch in winter and summer and, once decomposed, extremely beneficial to the soil.

But making leaf compost isn’t as easy as piling up a bunch of leaves and spreading them in the garden the following spring. Leaves, by themselves, do not make the rich soil amendment that all composters strive to achieve (but they will make leaf mold, a valuable soil addition; more below). Many of us started composting with leaves alone and it took a few seasons worth of experience to learn just what to add and how to maintain our heaps to turn our leaves into rich humus. But leaves, in their abundance, can be the primary ingredient in successful compost. And their use is one of the most rewarding green practices a gardener can employ.

There’s no reason to think that making the best compost is out of reach. At Planet Natural we supply everything you need: binstumblers and activators to get your pile cooking, plus worm farms for kitchen scraps. We know what makes gardens grow.

Piling Up

It’s difficult to estimate the amount of leaves that go into U.S. landfills and, of course, the estimates vary by season and location (weight versus volume is also a factor; leaves are the largest component of yard waste by volume, grass the largest component by weight). The EPA says 13 per cent of municipal waste volume nation-wide is from lawns, parks and other growing spaces. By weight, it is over half. Eight million tons of leaves went into landfills in 2005. It’s estimated that amount is somewhat less today thanks to the use of composting.

Of all green waste, the amount of leaves included can range from 5 to 50 percent depending on the season. The McGraw-Hill Recycling Handbook, Second Edition states that overall leaves make up 25 percent of all yard wastes in the U.S. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection estimates that grass, leaves, and other wastes from lawns and backyard gardens account for an estimated 18 percent of the annual municipal waste stream. In the fall, leaves can account for as much as 60-80 percent of that waste. In New Jersey, five to 30 percent of municipal solid waste is believed to be leaves. In the fall, this figures jumps to almost half. Because of its dry climate and short-growing season, the state of Wyoming estimates that its percentage of green waste is far lower than the national average.

These figures are in constant flux as individuals and communities apply composting methods to their green waste. But the fact remains that leaves are a tremendous and largely unnecessary burden on our landfill systems. And as a valuable resource to the gardener, the shame is wasting them at all. Stu Campbell, the author of Let It Rot! writes, “throwing them away is one of the worst kinds of conspicuous waste I know.”

Leaf Nutrition

What’s wasted? Pound for pound, the leaves of most tress contain twice the mineral content of manure. Because they’re a form of organic roughage, they can dramatically improve drainage and aeration of the soil. And they provide the perfect nutrition for beneficial microbes. In short, they make soil come alive.

Expect rich, moist humus in 60-90 days! Ringer® Compost Plus contains a proprietary blend of microorganisms which break down yard waste as well as a nutrient energy source for a fast start. Specifically formulated to speed up the natural decomposition process for fast, complete composting.

Leaves are rich in the trace elements your soil needs. Trees are an effective mineral extractor, putting down deep and intricate root systems that funnel calcium, magnesium, potassium and phosphorus from the soil into their trunks and out to its leaves. 50 to 80 percent of all the nutrients trees extract from the ground end up in the leaves. Gathered at their peak and composted correctly, leaves will transfer this nutrition to your soil.

But all leaves are not created equal. The leaves of the eastern hemlock have twice as much nitrogen as the leaves of the red maple. White ash leaves are loaded with calcium, hemlock not so much. White ash leaves have a pH of 6.8, sugar maple leaves have a pH of 4.30. Some leaves aren’t suitable at all for composting, or should be used very sparingly. The leaves of black walnut trees and eucalyptus trees contain a natural herbicide that may keep your garden seeds from germinating.

To avoid wasting all these valuable nutrients and roughage, it’s important to know how to use leaves effectively. Leaves are at their nutrient best shortly after they’ve fallen from the tree. Soon thereafter, their nutrient value begins to disappear. Leaves left on lawns or in piles over winter lose much of their mineral value to leaching. Leaves composted without shredding and not mixed with a green source of nitrogen may sit for years before decomposing. Without a source of nitrogen, leaves will not become compost but instead become leaf mold, a valuable soil addition in terms of drainage and water-holding capability, but not as valuable as mineral-rich compost.

Leaf Compost, Leaf Mold, Leaf Mulch

What you intend to make with your leaves will determine the process you use. Many gardeners, especially those with abundant access to leaves, will have use for all three leaf products: compost, mold and mulch. Some will be looking only to make compost to enrich their soil. Gardeners with soil drainage problems will want to make leaf mold to improve the crumb and friability of their soil. Those with perennial plantings and extensive shrubbery will want leaf mulch to protect their plants and improve the soil’s water holding capabilities. Making the decision easier is the fact that any of the products can be used more or less effectively for any of these uses. But for the best utilization of leaves’ nutrition, you’ll want to make compost.

The Rake’s Progress

Let’s start at the beginning. Leaves should be gathered as soon as they start falling from your trees. At this point, they contain the most nitrogen and their cells are still pliable and friendly to decomposition. Not only do leaves give up nitrogen as they sit around, the cells walls harden, becoming resistant to break down. As the lignin between cell walls dehydrates, it not only resists decomposition but its ability to transmit nutrients through the soil (cation exchange) is decreased. Using freshly fallen leaves to make mold or compost not only preserves the leaves’ mineral content, it increases the function that transmits that nutrition from soil to plants. Lignin also provides nutrition for the bacteria that will facilitate the decomposition process. The more viable the lignin, the faster you’ll have compost.

The Green Cone Food Waste Digester has been designed to break down these materials in a safe way. The waste is digested rather than composted and is primarily reduced to water. Very little waste residue is produced and unlike traditional composters, there is no need to manually turn the waste.

Yes, gathering leaves is a chore, one that extends a month or two through the fall season. But as The Complete Gardening Compost Guide by Barbara Pleasant and Deborah L. Martin points out, it’s also good exercise. Plan to spread your raking out over the season and you can give up your gym membership for the entire fall. Pleasant lists “12 Rules of Raking” to make the job easier and more effective. While most of these rules come from common sense, the last, “Keep in mind that leaf season will last for several weeks, so you have plenty of time to let yourself enjoy the weather and the work,” is one the more ambitious among us might need to be reminded of.

Shreddin’

Leaves break down slowly. A pile of unshredded leaves without added nitrogen sources may sit for years before it will be completely decompose. Early-season raking of clipped grass and leaves help solve this problem by supplying an already mixed source of leaves and grass. As the season moves on, only leaves will be available. To make quality compost, leaf shredding is essential. This can be done by commercial shredders, which are notoriously expensive, noisy and fragile. Or shredding can be done with your home lawn mower. Don’t be content to run over your leaves once. Maximum shredding is important for quick breakdown. It’s easier if you employ help to pile up the leaves again once you’ve passed over them with the mower. Several passes will give you a fine, quick-to-decompose product. This is true if you’re making compost or leaf mold. In a pinch, a Weed Whacker or other line trimmer can be used to reduce leaves to a more compostable size.

Unshredded leaves left to mold will pack tightly in layers, delaying the molding process sometime for as much as two or three years. Even in a compost tumbler, unshredded leaves will sit through the season while all other green materials around it decompose.

Piling On Leaf Mulch

Now’s the time to decide what to do with your leaves. If using them as mulch, they can be applied directly under trees shrubs and plantings to protect the soil and provide insulation from the cold. Don’t be afraid to pile it on. Loft is important; the higher the pile and the more air trapped inside it, the better the insulating properties. Several inches is a good start. The leaves will compress and layer as the season progresses. In extremely cold climates, a foot of leaf mulch is not too much. Remember that leaves generally increase the acidity of soil. It’s a good idea to test soils in the spring and add lime or other alkaline substances if you pH is not to your plants’ liking. If using whole leaves or those not finely shredded, you’ll want to pull them back in the spring to allow the soil to warm. Unshredded leaves can also make a sort of canopy over soils, allowing moisture to run-off and not get to the ground. Finely shredded leaves tend to work themselves into the soil and encourage moisture absorption. Also, shredded leaves will not inhibit the spring soil warming process as much.

Studies have found that mulching leaves directly into turf, lawns and gardens has many benefits and a few drawbacks (see The Problem with Leaves). Generally, mulching directly into turf increases aeration and friability of soils, allowing grasses to spread and thicken. It will also lower nitrogen to carbon ratios of soils if done to extremes. Large amount of shredded leaves left on turf results in leaf litter being apparent the next spring and a chance that new grass growth will be discouraged by the cover.

If you have an abundance of leaves, it’s a good idea to store some in contained heaps to use later during the growing season as mulch. Yes, they’ll lose some of their nutritional benefit through leaching and off-gassing. But come spring, they’ll help conserve moisture in the soil during the growing season and will slowly become integrated into your garden. The decomposition that occurs during the storage process is beneficial. You’re making leaf mold.

Mold Does Mulch One Better

Leaf mold is a step past leaf mulch. It’s made in much the same way as compost, but with little or no nitrogen added to the leaves. Leaves left in contact with the earth and its wealth of beneficial microbes will slowly turn to leaf mold. The speed at which this happens depends mainly on the size of the leaves, shredded or not. Just leaving leaves where they fall will eventually result in leaf mold, not a bad thing in wooded areas, but not a good thing on your lawn (see “leaves on turf above). Some gardeners with whom patience is a virtue, see little reason to “artificially” make leaf mold. Those of us without that patience are glad to encourage the natural process.

Mixes the pile without heavy lifting! The Yard Butler® Compost Turner is an effective way to add oxygen and bring microbes into contact with newly added material. Piles that are not properly aerated may produce an unpleasant odor.

Making leaf mold is similar to making compost. Piling leaves in heaps or in bins and cages is about all that’s necessary. Keep the piles uniformly moist. Turning them on occasion is helpful but not necessary. Matting, a problem with leaf-only piles, is minimized by frequent turning. Keeping the pile under a plastic tarp will help conserve heat and moisture. Be sure that the pile has access to air. Even piled in cages, leaves can take three years to reach optimum condition. But if you shred finely, turn the pile and keep it uniformly moist, you’ll have usable product in six to 12 months. Leaf mold can also be made in plastic bags by filling lawn bags with shredded leaves, dampening and poking a few holes to let in air.

Making leaf mold (or compost for that matter) in raised beds can greatly increase the volume of your soil. Filling a raised bed with shredded leaves in the fall and turning them into the soil as soon as possible is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your contained soil. Covering the bed with plastic over the winter will speed the assimilation process.

Leaf mold absorbs five times its weight in water. Turned into hard and clay soils, it will help make them more friable and root-friendly while maintaining good moisture levels. And any leaf mold not used in your garden makes a great addition to your compost heap.

Leaf Compost

Making leaf compost isn’t different than making other compost. Bins, cages, piles and tumblers will all give satisfactory results though at different speeds. Because leaves are mostly carbon (60 parts carbon to one part nitrogen) more attention must be paid to the carbon-nitrogen balance. Not only will the right ratio of leaves to green material or manure yield a more nutritious product, it will also give you compost more quickly.

Chopping and mixing leaves with other brown and green ingredients will speed decomposition by four times. Five parts leaves to one part manure will get your compost pile up and hot. Using only grass clippings requires five part leaves to two or three parts clippings. Kitchen waste including coffee grounds and those last trimmings from your garden will also increase the nitrogen content of your pile. But don’t over do it. Too much nitrogen will help make your heap smell or turn anaerobic. Being sure your pile gets enough oxygen will help prevent this problem. To avoid matting, frequent turning of leaf piles is a must. Turning distributes moisture among water-repellent leaves, making for more uniform decomposition.

Perfect for those just starting out! The Panacea® Wire Compost Bin is easy to use, easy to assemble and affordable. Powder-coated steel design with anchor spikes stays secure against wind, even on hilly ground. Provides essential air circulation and eliminates the messy look of piles.

Maintaining correct carbon-to-nitrogen ratios is not always easy. Measuring green and brown materials in buckets, bushels or wheel barrow loads, not an exact science, will give close proximity. Because manure has more weight per volume, less of it than what appears to be 20 percent by volume will give a correct balance. While the traditional layering method isn’t necessary to make compost, it does help you eyeball well-balanced green and brown ratios.

Because leaves are often available in such large quantities, it is impractical to expect your compost tumbler to consume all of them. If you have a bounteous supply of leaves, you’ll want to use bins, cages or heaps to begin the compost process. Leaves from the heaps can always be added to your tumbler when a new batch is being started. Again, because of their availability, it’s tempting to construct very large piles. But large piles are harder to turn and contain. Two or three manageable piles, all with sufficient nitrogen source added, are much more effective and more easily worked. The classic “three bin” method of composting is a great way to keep large amounts of leaves organized and progressing through the decay cycle.

Some gardeners have developed shortcuts that help them utilize fall’s bounty more efficiently. One method is to rake leaves directly over the remains of your vegetable garden at the end of the season, then rototill the entire plot to break up the leaves and greens and mix them with the soil. The plot can then be covered with plastic if the size of your garden makes it feasible. Adding a little manure or fertilizer will help the carbon to nitrogen balance. A second rototilling a week or so later further breaks down the leaves, integrates them with the soil and aerates it all. Recover for the winter. Spring rototilling should reveal that the leaves have become part of your soil.

One last caution when using your finished leaf compost. Some leaves will yield a more acidic product, especially if pine needles have been included (though it takes large amounts of needles to effectively change the pH). Measuring the pH of your soil after adding compost is a good idea. Supplement to bring soil pH in line with your plants’ needs. Or just add a bit of lime to compost high in pine needles and acidic leaves (oak, maple) before using it.

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30 Responses to “Using Autumn’s Bounty”

  1. Carrie on April 27th, 2014 at 6:48 am #

    I have tons of oak leaves (50) bags each year that I give to the city. Is it worth getting a chipper and mulching them? If so what is the best chipper to buy?

    • Anonymous on April 29th, 2014 at 6:38 pm #

      Just buy a leaf blower that has a reverse function. You can use it to suck up leaf piles in the fall and it will mulch the leaves as it sucks them up.

  2. rocky on October 17th, 2014 at 10:28 pm #

    I have tons of leaves from the trees in my yard. They are mostly maple and ash, with some poplar mixed in. I have a leaf vacuum that shreds the leaves that I pull behind my lawn tractor. This year instead of putting them back in the woods, I put them on my garden and sprinkled some 10-10-10 extended release fertilizer on the leaves and watered it. My question is was that a good idea? Normally I have access to chicken manure, but not anymore, so I tried this.

    Thanks,
    Rocky

    • E. Vinje on October 18th, 2014 at 5:49 am #

      Rocky –

      Please let us know if this article on Using Leaves in the Garden helps:

      https://www.planetnatural.com/composting-leaves/

    • bobby on March 29th, 2015 at 4:08 pm #

      ROCKY that may work but keeping things organic is a lot better. I use rabbit manure, but horse cow goat, all work. Today is march 27th 2015, you can go to my raised beds, stick your hand in and pick up maybe 50 worms or more, lots of young worms, too. I dare to say my garden soil is as rich as any in the United States producing top notch veggies — my toms grow out of sight (just loaded with fruit, usually growing 11 ft or more). I wish I knew how to add pics on here, you’d see me on an 8 ft ladder tying up vines lol. Thank you god for the health to do my gardening, even though I give 90 percent away lol.

      Happy gardening tu

  3. Rocky on October 18th, 2014 at 8:03 am #

    Hi E.

    Oops, looks like I blew it. Should I remove the leaves? I’m thinking so. I live in the country and the farm supply has alfalfa pellets. Thanks for sending me the link. It was very helpful.

    • john on November 17th, 2014 at 10:02 am #

      Would add some lime also, been doing this for 20 years in upstate south Carolina. My friends wish theirs would grow like mine.

  4. Glenn on November 4th, 2014 at 3:33 pm #

    I have a lot of oaks which are slow to decompose. I run the mower over them with the bag flap half closed so they get chopped a little bit finer by the mulching blade and then get collected into the bag. This also collects some grass at the same time as I start high and keep lowering the deck with each cutting. I then run everything through a Flowtron LE-800 Leaf-Eater Electric Leaf Shredder to chop it down even finer. Everything along with kitchen waste goes into a big wire bin. By late spring I have some really nice compost.

  5. lola broughton on November 16th, 2014 at 12:01 pm #

    Does using bone meal draw gnats to indoor plants or any kind of bug?

    • DC_Train on May 13th, 2015 at 12:00 pm #

      I don’t think bone meal (BM) will draw insects, and it might be a repellent for some, but don’t leave the bag where the dog can find it. One of our Labragoats (Labrador retrievers) ended up making a trip to the vet after she ate about half of a new bag of bone meal. If I’d had any idea she’d tear into it, I’d have put it up out of her reach. Thankfully, she survived the experience, but I don’t doubt that she’d do it again if she had a chance.
      Know the source of the BM, to avoid any from countries where “mad cow disease,” etc. could be a problem.

      I use a Worx brand electric blower/vac that shreds materials as it bags them. Lots of oaks around here, too, so the tip about adding some lime is most helpful. I have a list of what’s “brown” (carbon) and what’s “green” (nitrogen) materials for compost, and try to hit a good balance. Most leaves are “brown,” with a carbon:nitrogen ratio from 40:1 to 80:1, but oak is about 26:1. Hair and egg shells are “greens.” Coffee grounds (and filters) are brown, and we have plenty of those, too.

      • Pat C on June 25th, 2016 at 3:11 pm #

        HI DC,

        Just a correction, coffee grounds are high in nitrogen, so they are classified as “greens”, not “browns”. Coffee grounds with leaves make an incredibly rich and dark compost. Coffee grounds are also one of the few available greens in the winter, right after we in the north get out huge piles of leaves.

  6. jay on September 16th, 2015 at 1:42 pm #

    Hi,

    Can I use oak leaves for mulch on my redwood trees? Should I shred them first? All I can find is mulching leaves for gardens — nothing about redwood trees. All help will be appreciated.

    Thank you,

    Jay Sorenson

    • Paul Symington on November 6th, 2016 at 7:21 pm #

      In my experience coast redwoods love Garry oak leaves, probably because the leaves are acidic and full of minerals after they decompose.

  7. Pam on October 11th, 2015 at 8:34 pm #

    Help! I have questions about a situation in my yard! I am renting a house that has two fully grown producing black walnut trees next to the garage. The walnuts are falling, of course, and a sneak peek has shown me I will have an ample supply of plump walnuts to snack on later. The leaves are also falling off, so if it isn’t windy, I’ve been letting them sit on the concrete driveway all day in the sun until they are brown and crinkly, then I rake them up and have been using them for mulch around the shrubs in the front of the house. On days I can’t get to them, they dry out some more, and rubbing a handful between my palms gives me a fine mulch, which I like at times…The beds in front of the house already have an old build up of red cedar mulch, I’m guessing by the way it looks, maybe 2 or 3 years old. Anyway, I sweep that aside, put down the walnut mulch (which has some maple leaves in it too), then sprinkle the old cedar mulch on top to hold it down until it settles and give a uniform look to the beds. There is an old layer of landscaping material under the cedar mulch. Everything seems to have been there so long that some roots have pushed the landscaping material up in places where it’s been overlapped and you can see some very fine roots from the evergreens just under the landscaping material. My problem is a few days ago, I noticed one of the shrubs (an upright yew, I think? grows thick and tall, can be shaped, about 9-10 ft tall right now, but both have been topped, so guessing their age about 15 years or more) all of a sudden has developed browning leaves like it’s dying off very suddenly. Is this because of the walnut leaves? It rained a couple of nights ago and the process seems to have been accelerated even more. One other shrub doesn’t have any walnut mulch under it, and seems to be okay so far. I’ve read that nothing will grow under black walnut trees because of an ingredient in the roots, is it in leaves too? (By the way,I DO have some grass and day lilies growing under them that don’t seem to be bothered. I’ve also heard that they will kill grass if they don’t get picked up). What’s the scoop on all this, please? Your knowledge would be greatly appreciated!

    • E. Vinje on October 12th, 2015 at 12:31 pm #

      Hello Pam —

      Walnut leaves do also include juglone, the same toxic chemical as the root.​ Yew plants are particularly susceptible to the negative effects of this chemical. The recent rains have most likely leached some of the juglone down into the soil, which has affected the nearby plants. Your best bet at preventing any further damage would be to rake out as much of the walnut mulch as possible and to refrain from adding any more of it. Luckily, composting the walnut leaves removes the toxic chemical and is a good way to process them before using them in the yard or garden.

      Hope this helps!

  8. barbara on October 29th, 2015 at 6:53 am #

    At the edge of the yard was filled with blackberry bushes, poison ivy, and “stranglers” and trees. Most, plus roots, are cleared out, but there is a sudden dip in the land, about 3 ft. down, and is filled with old leaves. Most of the soil every where else around here is clay. Would I be doing any harm putting a light cover of the clay soil over the old leaves on the edge of the dip. My thinking, the clay will help hold the dipped wall of leaves in place, plus help speed up the aging of the pile of leaves. AM I right?, wrong? Any hint, suggestions? Thanks

    • Carol Lee on November 3rd, 2015 at 6:49 pm #

      Hi Barbara,
      Today, I used some clay to hold down leaves, which I didn’t want to blow off beds. I also tossed sandy loam on top of that. I figured it wasn’t enough to harm anything, since I started with pure sand last year, and adding all things to make it plantable. I have spent time to push leaves into soil, and wet them..repeat, until it’s all mixed this week.
      Good gardening this season.

  9. Paula Brook on November 4th, 2015 at 7:32 am #

    I have a large area on which I’ve used mulch to keep weeds down. But now I want to use the raked leaves from my trees on my yard. How do I use both regular (wood?) mulch and leaf mulch? I hate to send these leaves to land fill but can only accommodate so many in my small compost bin, and only have so much outside area (no garage) to store them in bags til next spring. Thanks

  10. Skipper Butler on December 13th, 2015 at 7:28 am #

    I am considering a Mantis 22 cubic foot tumbler to make compost. I have been researching everything I can get my hands on to learn how to make “hot” compost from autumn leaves. I have processed about 150 to 200 bushels of shredded leaves (some stored in 55 gallon bags and the rest introduced into my gardens soil). I have plenty of leaves but will run short on green stuff to mix at times. Can I use cotton seed meal or alfalfa pellets in place of green matter. I would prefer cotton seed meal because it is cheaper and has a higher nitrogen analysis.

    • E. Vinje on December 13th, 2015 at 8:38 am #

      Skipper –

      Cotton seed meal is a great source of nitrogen for compost. The only concern is that it can have a high amount of pesticide residue in it. I’ve attached a link to our Carbon-to-Nitrogen Ratios page that should help with many green or high nitrogen materials.

      https://www.planetnatural.com/composting-101/c-n-ratio/

      Hope this helps!

  11. monte on April 22nd, 2016 at 7:51 am #

    My town has opened a commercial facility 250 feet from my home as well as others. They process 45,000+ yards of leaves annually and 1000’s of tons of branches, stumps and wood chips. The leaves are being composted, turned according to standards. The wood is being ground into mulch piles and being turned as well to standards. The piles of wood and mulch stretch 30+ feet in the air and about a football field long.

    There is a ton of truck traffic from 7am- 4pm along with front end loaders and grinding bins that are being used within state guidelines. Although I realize and agree that this type of composting is good for the environment, I have considerable concern about the air quality my family is breathing. The composting odors are horrible to say the least and are constant 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and even throughout the winter months.

    Do i have a legitimate concern about mold spores in the air along with other toxins? Should a facility like this be run so close to residential homes where kids are playing outside continually? I forgot to mention on the other side of this facility are three baseball fields, a football field, a soccer field and playground. Thoughts?

    • blackgold on May 1st, 2016 at 6:57 am #

      You have a legitimate concern, although I do not think that mold spores are a problem. If this is being done in accordance with state regulations, the air should be safe, although noxious and unpleasant-smelling. Perhaps containing the compost piles might be an effective way to deal with this problem, although you may simply live too close to the facility per the zoning codes to be able to change things. If you really want to be heard, take this to your local town or city board and file a complaint. You may have to bring your friends and neighbors. If they are receptive you will all come up with a solution together. If not you may have to take (expensive) legal measures. Good luck, friend

  12. Dave on September 19th, 2016 at 6:54 am #

    I live on a farm and have large piles of straw/hay mixed with manure which I accumulate in a corner of my property each year. What should I do to compost this material best?

    • Anonymous on November 4th, 2016 at 8:31 pm #

      Hi, I was wondering if you can help answer a question for me. I am a fiber artist teaching myself how to eco print with leaves. I collected a whole lot of leaves that had just fallen off the trees and stored them in plastic sealed bags. Now there is black fuzzy mold all over them. I want to use them to print on my fabric that will be wearable art. Is it dangerous for me to use these leaves with all this mold? Don’t I have to worry about breathing in the mold and touching the leaves?

  13. ca on November 16th, 2016 at 4:34 pm #

    I mow my leaves up and the mower mulches and collects them in the lawnmower bag. I then put them all around the bushes and flower beds to turn into mulch. (I also put them in a wire cage if I have leftover). This is an extremely easy way to collect all the leaves without “raking” and chop them up at the same time.

  14. Helen mclaughlin on November 22nd, 2016 at 11:47 am #

    Can I add coffee grounds to my apple leaf cage? Will this help apple leaf compost quicker?

    • Gooner on November 24th, 2016 at 2:44 pm #

      I get a 5 gallon pail of coffee grounds once a week or so from a cafe up the street from me, I add them to all my compost piles to keep them hot through the winter. Just keep it wet, turn the pile over for aeration and keep adding coffee grounds as needed and it will stay hot and be well on it’s way to composting by spring. Definitely helps to shred the leaves as small as possible and keep it all covered.

  15. Wendy L Coombs on June 5th, 2017 at 4:34 pm #

    Hi I have been using well shredded leaf mulch for years and loving what it is doing to improve my soil. BUT…every spring I plant carrots and beets and they germinate, I see they are “up” and then they are gone. Very frustrating to have to replant many times to get a crop. Ant help with this problem would be very helpful!

    • E. Vinje on June 6th, 2017 at 6:51 am #

      Hi Wendy –

      Adding shredded leaves and other brown materials to your garden can remove nitrogen from the soil. I suggest doing a soil test to start and let me know the results.

  16. Teri on July 17th, 2017 at 12:07 pm #

    I have Ash, Cottonless Cottonwood, Apple, some unknown, Aspen, and LOTS of pine needles, can I use the pine needles at all or in combination with any of these for either composting or mulch. I have a very clay, slow draining soil and little money need to use my resources as best as I am able.
    Thanks so much for any help.

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