It’s the time of year again when the leaves are changing and falling from the trees. This means that the chance to start collecting leaves for your compost pile is upon you! If you have your own deciduous trees, start collecting the leaves and setting them aside. If you don’t happen to have leaves available, ask your neighbors or go to the Fort Collins leaf exchange website (http://www.fcgov.com/recycling/leaf-exchange.php) to find people in the city who are giving away leaves.
If you do end up getting leaves from sources off your property, try to make sure that leaves are not mixed with grass clippings or pine needles. As people often spray their lawns with chemicals and fertilizers, grass clippings can be covered in these unwanted contaminants. Pine needles should not be added to the compost either, as they do not break down well.
When collecting leaves for composting, dry leaves are more useful. If leaves are collected and bagged while wet, they will start decomposing in the bag before they can get used. This will defeat the purpose of using them to keep compost light, fluffy, and aerobic. Damp or wet leaves can be used as a surface mulch or to create leaf mold if they left to decompose fully in the bag.
If you are composting on an urban scale, you will probably need at least ten bags of leaves for a year’s worth of composting. You can decrease the volume of these leaves by mowing over them with your lawnmower then bagging them
Once the leaves have been collected, stack the bags close to your compost pile. It is also a good idea to cover them with a tarp. Somehow, dry leaves in closed bags get wet when snow melts slowly over them. Dry leaves mix well with food waste and other wet organic materials throughout the rest of the year, ensuring that your compost pile will not turn anaerobic and smelly! The leaves can also be used to create a thick top layer on the compost that will prevent the surface from drying out in our semi-arid climate.
We hope that this helps your composting go smoother! We know it will keep leaves out of the landfill, where they do not belong. Leaves are a valuable organic resource which should be returned to the soil.
P.S. If you end up having more leaves than you can use for composting, we are collecting bagged leaves, without pet waste or coniferous needles, on a limited basis this fall at our farm.