Due to the slow decaying nature of their lignin (cellulose) content, autumn leaves break down far more slowly than most other compost ingredients, and therefore should be composted separately. This can be achieved either by placing the collected leaves in plastic bags (taking care to avoid collecting from areas that may be subject to high levels of pollution, e.g., roadsides), or in specially-constructed wire bins. To accelerate the breakdown process it is advisable to keep the leaves wet and avoid the drying effects of wind. The traditional wire enclosure may slow down the process by allowing the contents to dry out unless it is lined with cardboard or similar material.
Leaves alone take between one and two years to break down into rich humic matter with a smell reminiscent of ancient woodland. While not high in nutrient content, leaf mold is an excellent bulky and fibrous soil conditioner. To speed up the decomposition process, fallen leaves can be shredded, for instance by using a rotary lawn mower. Adding fresh grass clippings to autumn leaves will also speed the process. For best results watch the pile to keep moisture content high enough, observe temperatures, and turn the pile occassionally to improve the cycle.
- Container composting
- German mound
- High fibre composting
- Worm compost
- Spent mushroom compost
- Sheet composting
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