Turn Fall Leaves into Nutrient-Rich Compost

| 10/7/2015 11:32:00 AM

Tags: Micki Brown, high desert, California, compost, mulch, nutrients,

Autumn is finally here and soon it will be bringing much cooler temperatures (much appreciated after a long toasty summer) and plenty of falling leaves. If you happen to have trees such as Chinese Pistache, Liquidambar, Ash, Crape Myrtle and many others that grow well in the High Desert, you’ll have the added bonus of spectacular fall colors before the leaves drop to the ground. When the leaves do finally drop, think about recycling them into mulch or compost rather than putting them in the trash.


Leaves can be a great benefit to gardens and landscapes because they hold a number of nutrients that can be released back into the soil for plant use, thus reducing the need for added fertilizers. According to Compost Guide, “the leaves of one large shade tree can be worth as much as $50 of fertilizers and humus. Pound for pound, the leaves of most trees contain twice as many minerals as manure.”

Using the leaves as mulch or compost not only adds the additional nutrients to the soil for use by plants, they also help to keep the soil warmer in the winter, cooler in the summer, helps the soil to retain moisture so you don’t have to water as often, and shades the ground preventing many weeds from growing. If you happen to be using needles from pines (or the leaves from oaks), you can get the added benefit of adding a little acidity to the soil for plantings that struggle with the High Desert’s alkaline soil.

There are a number of ways to collect the fallen leaves — leaf vacuums, blowers, mowers, and if you want to be “green," the old-fashioned rake. You can also help out your neighbors and collect their leaves as well. The leaves release their nutrients and break down best if they are ground up or shredded, so running them through a mulching mower or chipper-shredder does the trick.


10/31/2015 11:07:21 AM

When I had a full size cargo van, I'd collect leaf bags on my way to work. I'd get 80 bags every day (different routes according to various trash pickup days). I got tired of rocks, broken glass and dead cats, though.

10/30/2015 7:21:02 AM

We have two huge black walnuts in our side yard. Their leaves are mixed with the oak, maple, etc on the ground. Are the leaves as toxic as the roots? I.e. Not a good idea to use in my compost?

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