What Is Leaf Compost?

People can make compost out of many different materials, and those things do not have to be expensive or difficult to find. In fact, leaf composts are some of the most popular compost types out there, and they serve a lot better uses than many people realize.

Leaf compost is a fertile mix of decaying leaves and other organic matter such as grass clippings. Leaf compost is easy to produce yourself provided you have large leaf-shedding trees on your property, and it’s a cost-effective way of fertilizing your garden.

Let’s face it, most people have access to lots of leaves, so making a leaf compost is never a difficult thing to do. If people plan smartly, they can save their Fall leaves and make a great mulch or compost that can keep their plants healthy all winter long.

Other types of compost:

The Benefits of Leaf Compost

Leaf composting is simple and inexpensive, and this type of compost or mulch is filled with nutrients, enabling you to “feed” your plants and other garden items everything they need to grow and thrive.

Just like other types of compost, there are many benefits to choosing leaf composting, and they include the following:

  • Keeps soil cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter
  • Adds nutrients to garden soil
  • Repels weeds and retains the moisture of the soil
  • Larger particles help enhance tilth and loosen hardened soil
  • Protects plants better than using regular soil alone

Leaf compost is easy to use and can be added to nearly everything in the yard, making it a very valuable addition to the beauty of that yard and keeping the homeowners happy. It is also much easier and faster to get good leaf compost than most people realize.

Leaf mold compost in wheelbarrow vertical
Yay Leaf mold compost in wheelbarrow vertical

Gathering Leaves for Leaf Compost

Although people can technically use any type of leaves they want for a leaf compost, there are some leaves that do better than others. Good leaves have a lot of nutrients in them and will decompose quickly, and these include leaves such as:

  • Ash
  • Beech
  • Birch
  • Cherry
  • Fruit trees
  • Maple
  • Nut trees

Avoiding leaves that are “waxy,” such as leaves from magnolia and ginkgo trees, is smart because they can take years to break down properly. While oak leaves are okay to include in a compost, people shouldn’t add too many because they are acidic.

Acidic leaves such as those from oak trees should make up no more than 20% of the compost pile. Any more than 20% and the nutrient content won’t be as good, meaning the plants won’t get the nutrition they need to grow properly.

It’s better to not add pine needles either, since they are acidic and can take a long time to break down.

Creating the Best Leaf Compost

Also read: How to compost fallen leaves.

Once people gather tons of leaves for their compost pile, they need to know what to do next. After all, leaf composts are more than just a bunch of leaves thrown together on the ground. The first thing to remember is that the leaves shouldn’t be used whole.

What this means is simple: people need to shred their leaves before using them in compost, and the best way to do that is to place them on the ground and mow over them with a lawn mower. If there’s a bag attached to the mower, that’s even better!

This is because the bigger leaves are, the longer it takes for them to decompose. There are leaf shredders people can buy, but the easiest way to shred leaves is simply to mow them, and that will take care of it.

After the leaves are all shredded, they can be placed on the ground with some type of fencing or wiring surrounding them. This can include regular fencing or chicken wire, but containing the leaves makes for much faster composting.

At this point, two things should be added to the compost pile, and they are:

  • Nitrogen. This usually means manure, and chicken manure is some of the best.
  • Oxygen. No, you don’t add oxygen, but you create oxygen by turning the mixture over every now and then.

The best compost always consists of four parts of dry or “brown” materials and one part active or “green” materials. For leaf compost, this means four parts leaves to one part materials such as eggshells, vegetable scraps, green grass clippings, coffee grounds, and the manure.

farmyard compost manure in wheelbarrow
Yay Farmyard compost manure in wheelbarrow

For those people who cannot get a hold of chicken manure, they can use manure from either horses, cows, or rabbits. This will break the other materials down much quicker and produce the heat that the compost needs to develop properly.

Compost piles should be turned once a week at a minimum – every few days is even better. If the pile gets too dry, a little water can be added to keep the process moving. The dampness of the pile should be similar to that of a well-wrung sponge.

Even after the winter comes and temperatures dip to freezing or below, the leaf compost pile needs to be turned regularly. The freezes may make this action a little more challenging, but it still has to be done to get great compost in the end.

How to Use Leaf Compost

For people who wonder, is leaf compost good for vegetable gardens, trees, and other plants, there is good news. Leaf compost is great for nearly everything in the garden, including not only vegetable gardens but also deciduous trees and shrubs, and flowers, including roses.

A good leaf compost or mulch is even good for plants that have shallow roots and those that love acidity in the soil. In most cases, the compost can be added to the top two to three inches of the soil, and leaf compost can even be added to potting soil.

When people add leaf compost to potting soil, the compost should take up no more than 30% of the potting soil mixture. If the percentage gets higher than 30%, much of the potting soil will be reduced over the next year or so.

Composting in general also improves the appearance of the plants and even controls problems associated with weeds. This is because composting will destroy most of the weed seeds found in the mixture.

How to Tell If the Compost Is Ready to Use

Leaf compost is usually ready in 6 to 18 months. It is ready when the mixture becomes crumbly and when it is a bit drier than it was before. The temperature will also be more even and much closer to standard air temperature.

processed homemade compost
Yay Processed homemade compost

It is important for people to go through the compost before using it to remove any big pieces of debris that can be a part of the composting process. If anything in the mixture has not decomposed, it can be added to a new compost pile to start anew.

Leaf composts are easy to start and easy to maintain. Since they can be added to any type of plant in your garden, they are quite a versatile way to enhance the growth and vitality of the average garden plant.

People who collect enough leaves will be able to use their compost for a very long time. Fall leaves that are composted for at least six months make a great compost, and since most of them are ready by early summer, this is the perfect time to start plant-pampering.

The main things people need to remember is to choose the right types of leaves, add the right ingredients to the compost pile, and make sure the pile is turned over on a regular basis. After that, all it takes is a little patience!