Turning Autumn Leaves into Black Gold
By this time of year, we've usually had at least one good cold spell that starts the leaves falling. While we've had some nights in the 50s, we just haven't hit the 40s (or lower) yet.
When we do, expect to see a mass jettisoning. And this year, you should be prepared to turn that fallen autumn color into black gold: compost. Even if you don't have an interest in making a compost pile with leaves, they should be removed from the lawn since a heavy blanket of them can smother a lawn.
Do you remember years ago when leaves were burned or hauled to the dump to be burned or buried? Air pollution controls and fire bans have made the smell of burning leaves a thing of the past. Today, leaves are too valuable to burn. It's better to use them to make composted soil for flower and shrub borders, potted plants, and top-dressing for the yard.
The simplest method of composting is to build alternate 4- to 6-inch layers of leaves or other vegetable matter with 2 to 4 inches of good garden soil. Sprinkling a commercial fertilizer on each layer of vegetable matter will hasten decomposition. One-half pound or one cupful of 10-10-10, 10-6-4, 10-20-0, or the equivalent, per 10 square feet of vegetable-matter layer is sufficient. Manure, if available and free of weeds, may also be added to good advantage to the soil layer.
The compost pile should be 4 to 6 feet wide, and of any desired length. The top layer should consist of soil, and the surface of the pile should slope toward the center, forming a basin to hold water. The layers of leaves should be watered thoroughly as they are spread out, and when the pile is completed, additional water should be added periodically to keep the material moist but not soggy.
The compost should be turned or mixed with a garden fork or shovel every three or four months, and within six months to a year, it should be ready for use.
If you don't have a compost pile, but would like to get one started, here are a few sources that will help you though the process:
There's really not much mystery to it. I like to say, "Pick yourself a spot and build yourself a pile of …." Or, as my favorite bumper sticker says, "COMPOST HAPPENS!"
Randy’s appearance at Shades of Texas this Saturday has been postponed. Stay tuned for updates.
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