Steele: Fall provides free compost materials

I save labour in fall and spring and the cost of buying and getting mulch transported to my place.

I love the glorious autumn colours.

Although I’m sad when the leaves have fallen, the practical side of me is delighted—all that free compost material.

Here are tips for using nature’s bounty.

Easiest is to mimic nature, leave leaves where they fall to create a closed loop waste system.

I’ve done this for ten years under my honey locust tree. Leaves mulch the tree and perennials under it.

In a conventional landscape, leaves get raked, bagged, and hauled to the municipal compost. Mulch is purchased in spring to spread around plants and trees.

By mimicking nature, I save labour in fall and spring and the cost of buying and getting mulch transported to my place.

I also help the environment—reducing the need for trucks traveling to and from the landfill.

My driveway is covered in a golden carpet of tiny leaves. Once all have fallen, I’ll sweep them to spread on a garden.

While sweeping, I’ll enjoy bird song as long as no one turns on a leaf blower. If you have a tree with large leaves such as London plane or tough leaves like oak, it’s good to shred them with the lawn mower.

Smaller particles speed decomposition.

My friend was despairing over too many leaves from her giant maple tree. I suggested she mow them. She tried unsuccessfully. I didn’t know she only had a push mower.

I heartily commended her for this but suggested borrowing an electric mower for leaf shredding.

Once shredded, leaves can be spread on garden beds or layered into a compost pile.

Smashed Halloween pumpkins are ideal to use in alternating layers with leaves. Collect them from neighbours before they go into the green bin.

Wait until all leaves have dropped onto a lawn before doing the final mowing.

If you have a mulching mower, simply leave the clippings to add nutrients to soil and turf.

Another closed loop waste system, all nutrients in grass clippings and leaves are returned to the soil to feed the soil food web. It decomposes the materials to make nutrients available again to lawn and tree roots.

This builds up the water-holding capacity of the soil, conserving water.

Now is when I begin walking my neighbourhood looking for bags of small leaves I can haul home in my car.

If you live in or near old Glenmore and have too many small leaves, email me and I’ll gladly take them away.

I spray some water into the bags then seal them up. By spring they are full of ready-to-use leaf mould compost.

The process doesn’t work with clear plastic bags but any colour will do. This can also be done with a pile of leaves under a tarp. The key is to wet the pile as you make it and weight down tarp edges.