Sustainable Living

Leaves For Compost

Collecting Leaves For A Better Garden

Dried leaves are an important ingredient for making quality compost, and even better is that you can collect for yourself as much as you will ever need. For anyone close to deciduous trees around Autumn, dried out leaves are literally left at your feet.

This post is not so much about how to use the leaves in your compost, but how to go about collecting them for when you need high carbon ‘brown’ materials available (and if you are looking for information on how to use dried leaves for mulch or compost, you will find this article on making coffee compost most helpful). Having a good supply of leaves around means you can also shred them to use as a mulch, or hold them in something with good airflow and add water to start their journey into leafmold. Dry to semi dry leaves are a great material to have handy, so let’s put aside our used coffee grounds obsession (only for a moment), and get too it.

Tools for the Job:

  • A decent quality rake. I used one of those cheap plastic headed rakes to collect leaves, until the handle snapped in two one day out in the field. Fortunately the part still connect to the head was long enough to kind of rake leaves, and it does say a great deal for the phrase ‘You get what you pay for’. If you plan on doing a lot of leaf collecting, go for something closer to $30 than to $10 if you can.
  • Appropriate bags. I say appropriate because I like to store them in thick plastic bags, and these are the same kind of bags that the lawn mowing guy gives me all the lawn clippings in. All you really need is something that can take the rigors of dried leaves and twigs going down the sides without tearing badly, because that is going to cause all kinds of problems out in the field.
  • Transport. Each of the bags in the photo below weighs about 20 kilos, which is all good until you need to carry it back to your house up the road. Try not to fill 3 bags full without a way to get them back!
  • A Map. If you have no idea where the leaves might be, look around parks, carparks, schools, golf courses, particularly areas where there is fencing and a good breeze heading into it. You will find that the leaves will collect themselves, and you’ll just need to get them into the bag.
  • Gloves. Good quality leather gloves will keep you safe from the nasty sharp objects that lay in wait. And as a bonus they will keep your hands warm, so its all good.
  • Boots. If you are walking around where leaves collect, best get a good pair of boots on to protect your feet from mud and wet, to give you balance, and keep you warm. Also, boots and the gloves make you look cool!! That’s what I’ve been told anyways…

Collecting leaves in plastic bags for composting

If you keep the leaves bagged and in a dry place, they will last there for a long, long time. And that is exactly what you want to for year round composting. To start the process of turning a bag of leaves into a bag of leafmould, open the bag up to the elements and add some water (or whatever you would ordinary add to the compost), then poke a few holes in the bag to allow the air to get through. Toss the bag around every couple of weeks and over the course of 6 months you should see the transformation of those leaves into something that is perfect for next Spring’s seedlings.

bag of leaves for compost and leafmould

What you might find is that people will wonder why you are collecting leaves into large bags, and you might even get asked the question. I have been asked a couple of times as to why I do it, and that leads to the topic of home made compost and that leads to the topic of collecting coffee grounds. It is very satisfying being able to collect an ideal compost material and educate at the same time.

Somewhere in the world right now, leaves are falling. Where are those gloves!!

What are some of the materials that you collect for composting?

24 thoughts on “Leaves For Compost

  1. Pingback: Aged Leafmold | Coffee Grounds to Ground

  2. Pingback: Easy Way to Make Leafmold | Coffee Grounds to Ground

  3. Pingback: Coffee Grounds in Compost | Coffee Grounds to Ground

  4. here is another tip. Use the leaves for growing potatoes instead of having to buy straw. Just get them to partially compost over the winter. I am now thinking leaves are too valuable to put in compost!

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    • Good advice Sam. Hopefully you have been collecting enough to use for both :) If you need more keep in mind some of the lawn mowing guys around the area will have heaps of leaves with them right now, and are probably busy getting them to the tip :(

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  5. Can you help me with something please – How do you stop the leaves breaking down into leafmould when they are in the bags?

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  6. saw huge amount of leaves outside someones house in the area. Got 4 garbage bags full. Mowed them together with some grass and coffee grounds plus the secret lemon tree fertilizer. Also threw in a few worms. This compacted to 2 bags. Each bag of seed raising mix costs $5. These have 10 times the amount so I value each bag at $50 each. I also know exactly what is in the mixture. Might have to wait a year to see the results.

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    • Yeah that is a great thing about making you own compost is that you know exactly what went into it, plus all that hard work in getting it finished adds some more satisfaction. Hopefully you won’t need to wait a year, with some moisture it will speed up and once we get through Winter the extra heat will push it along.

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  7. I normally wait until the leaves on the side of the road have been run over for a few weeks and they end up turning into a kind of compressed cardboard kind of shape, then get those into plastic bags. You can get a lot more into each bag that way and will tend to last almost all the year. Or until it is time to collect leaves again!

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  8. Hi
    I’m very lucky as my entire street has deciduous trees on the nature strip & my neighbours are only too happy for me to rake & take away all their leaves.
    At last count, I have 5 woolpacks full & anticipate filling at least another 3.
    My family & neighbours think I’m strange but I don’t care!
    Cheers

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    • Nice one Nicole. I find it somewhat amusing and a little sad that all that material keeps going to waste year after year, and the ones that collect it for something other than going down the drain are seen as the strange ones!

      I was hoping to see a comment about the contribution from neighbors so thank you. There is also the option of having those same neighbors collect the leaves for you and bring them over, at least they get some exercise out of it, although I’d be happier if they started to make their own compost just like us!!

      Out of interest, where are you storing those woolpacks?

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      • My husband has “graciously” granted me space in his second shed to store my full woolpacks!
        Also got a 5 x 8 trailor load of stable manure from the local racing stable to add to my mix so very happy here.
        Cheers

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      • What a great bloke, and it sounds like you have enough material there for a heap of high quality compost. Please let us know how it progresses and I’d be more than happy to feature a post about it.

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  9. doing the same thing at the moment. Went to the local park on the weekend and just used my feet to create a pile of leaves and carried them home in a garbage bag (it was however reused from carrying home coffee grounds!). I then put it in on the lawn. I then mowed it so it is in nice small pieces. It is also mixed with grass so you are getting the carbon/nitrogen mix. I am using this lot for compost. However the next lot I will mow plus throw some coffee in the bag and make some leaf mould. It is amazing how many leaves you get from such a small place. There is just too many darn natives now so sometimes it is hard to find a good supply of leaves!.

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    • Hi mate. I like the idea of mowing them first as you get nice small leaf pieces mixed in with the grass. I saw some good piles on Dandenong Road that I was thinking of getting to on the weekend, and not too far from your place either.

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      • question I am wondering as a weed suppressant you could just chop up the leaves and put them straight on the garden bed after wetting them off course

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      • You could but it would need to be fairly thick, about 3 inches of it would do the job. Something I’ve been trying is newspaper (grab a dozen MX at the train station each day!), with grass clippings and leaves over the top. That is working very well for me, as there is just too much weight over the grass to give it any chance.

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