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Years of leaves = Compost?

Saylorsburg, PA

I live on a very open piece of land now (just over an acre, 3 trees that lose their leaves, I don't even rake in the fall) but my parents have LOTS of trees, every year they just rake all their leaves into the woods (mostly Oak and Maple). They don't turn it over or anything.

Can I just go take the leaves from the woods and throw them in the garden or would that cause more issues?

Do I need to do anything before I can add these to the garden?

Richmond, VA(Zone 7a)

I would do just that, put them in the garden. You should find some excellent leaf mulch underneath the top several layers -- a prized soil amendment.

IMO there are never guarantees of "no issues" but I would think t his is probably one of the safest and most productive things you can add, and I am envious of your good supply! ;-)

And. I am sure if there are any challenges inherent in leaf mulch, someone here will know about it and post it. ;-)

Kirkland, WA(Zone 7b)

I, too am envying your supply!
No issues with the leaves - it all breaks down. No one is adding anything to the leaves that fall in wooded areas and forests, and the soil is typically lovely, fluffy stuff.

Jacksonville, FL(Zone 9a)

Yard waste day is Wednesday in my neighborhood. I like to drive thru and see who is getting rid of leaves and then I snatch them into the van. Come summer I may as my across the street neighbor what she does with her grass clippings. I haven't SEEN a compost pile but that doesn't mean she doesn't have one. Maybe she'll give me a load or two

Cincinnati, OH(Zone 6a)

It should be great stuff. Only issue I see is possibly lots of weed seeds from the wooded area where you are taking them. The benefit is probably much greater than the risk.

I'm using the term "weed seeds" loosely here, meaning seeds of anything that might not be desirable for you in your yard. This could include things like invasive wildflowers that grow in those woods.



Completely rotted mixed leaves will number out as being nearly as good as placing raw cow manure. Coffee grounds are similar. The NPK numbers are aproximately 2-1-1. When completely rotted it takes up to three years for your living biology to use it all up. That is why adding leaves and a cover crop up the organic content of your soil. No elements of compost are completely used up in any given year. A piece of orange rind might take five years to decompose in your soil. Human hair can take even longer. When leaning towards the organic principles think long term improved soil and pay less attention to those who peddle man made so called fertilizers. Just don't use the stuff. With a little soil building you don't really need much if any harsh fertilizers or harsh chemical sprays.

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

wow. You'd better run before I find that leaf pile! You're sitting on a goldmine!

This message was edited Mar 3, 2009 2:00 PM

Missouri City, TX

And, if you use it to mulch - preferably with the un-composted top leaves -you will have VERY few weeds - you have deprived them of sunlight between the rowws of plants.

Another benefit - less watering, because less evaporation.
Even more benefits - watch for an abundance of earthworms.

Keaau, HI(Zone 11)

As a kid we used to drive MILES to the mountains to dig up "leaf mold"...about a foot under the and wonderful and my parents coveted it for their garden!!!

Lucky YOU!!!


Please do not go to the mountains now............The leaf mold and top soils are very sparce in most areas. In most state and federal forests it is illeagle to do so. Locate you leaves locally and build your own. It is much easier that way today. The mountains need all that they can muster up on their own. If you are in the mountains and need a baggie full for a potted plant you would do little harm but a truck load is something else.

Keaau, HI(Zone 11)

docgipe...being 68 and living in Hawaii there's not much chance ... besides, I would be surprised if there is anything left. I am always shocked to see open spaces in our country...places of rich and generous Mother Nature seem to be gobbled up by the Big Macs!!!


Yes OlohaHoya...........we have become the ugly consumer elete. Ripping off all kinds of good soil from the four corners of our world for the profit of this day only. The oceans are in no better shape. I see little agreement and serious effort to bring about any serious change. The great town of State College, Pa. will not let them put up the Golden Arches and call that progress. Big Deal. LOL Meanwhile the thousands of hunting camps in the top third of our Pennsylvanina have stopped more deer to hunt and are being bought by week end recreational owners a ripping and a tearing about on their $15,000 four wheelers and chasing the few deer that are left. Our conservation department calls that multi-use management. In the winter it is snow mobiles and cross country skiers. No rest for the mountains or the animals in them at all. Meanwhile acid rains continue to fall and the PH of the soils is in many places 5 or less. Nothing can grow like it use to. The undergowth is now in a desert with no sun. Oh what a sweet mess we/they have created. Wonderfull management and getting more insane every day..

Keaau, HI(Zone 11)

Oh dear... I think i shall go out and mow ...grass is really high and it connects me with Pele and her mountain.

Hahira, GA(Zone 8b)

docgipe - Come to GA & get some deer to re-populate Pennsylvania - we are overrun! Our highways & backroads alike are a testament to that. We also have seen many, many in neighborhoods (not rural; 30-yr-old neighborhoods) in Nashville, TN, so they may have an overabundance, too! Samantha


Our Dept. of Forrest and Waters in conjunction with the Pa. Game Commision have been on a six to ten year shoot down of the North Central deep populations. They are only partly right that the deer are the cause of poor reforrestation. Acid rain and an increasing lowering of the PH plus the canopy is creating desert no sun conditions. The one fact is that the herd is reduced to nearly non-existing and the mountains still show no growth gains.

In any year I can get licences to shoot four or five doe and one buck.....but they are not there to shoot anymore to any great degree. Yes the few remaining are nicer deer with some reaching trophy size. Tell my fourteen year old grandson that who would like to hunt and see one. I have not seen one near our cabin for the past three hunting seasons. No one wants to hunt in that low a population. Three years ago I went to Texas for a hunt. If I ever hunt again I will do something similar. We still have the cabin but recreational users will snap it up in a jiff if we list it.

Raleigh, NC

ok, I'm reading here, and I'm confused. y'all mulch with leaves? don't you just compost them?

we have tons. they blow all over my garden, lawn, and into my bearded iris beds. bad for lawn, very very bad for irises. so how do you keep them corraled as mulch?

been trying to get a shredder/chipper, but can't find a sturdy one that can handle this load. downed pine straw I don't mind as much, as it's a mulch the irises can handle and I don't have to blow it off the beds.

Missouri City, TX

bonjon, If they have been laying on the ground for a while - (past a few rains or seasons) - they stay put without shredding.

DW bought me a Sears 5hp shredder/bagger several years ago - I do shred newly fallen leaves - we have a 50' sycamore - huge leaves and lots of them. I rake/blow into piles and shred - usually all done in 3-4 hours. For the live oak leaves, I rarely shred.

Compost pile of leaves will be 6-8 feet long and 6 feet high - currently last fall's pile is less than 3 feet high, but I did encourage the worms with 3-5 # of dried molasses.

Raleigh, NC

we have inground pool that attracts leaves like a magnet. I have to close it early, when first leaf comes down.

I have four leaf pile areas all larger than what you've noted. but it's the fallen leaves that blow everywhere, then. once they dry out, they blow again. and again and again.

Missouri City, TX

We had a 20x40 pool in CA - begged the neighbor to trim a tree on his side of the fence.
He said, "Come on over and cut it down - I never liked that tree anyway. It was a volunteer from some bird a few years ago."

So I do understand the magnetic attraction of leaves to pools.

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