Bedding Down my Fall Garden

by Luanne
(Western PA)

I have been composting leaves now for 25 years, as a result of being daunted by the task of bagging leaves from 47 oak trees on my property. It's a lot of work, but the rich results are like black gold to me.

I, too, have been given "advice" over the years: never use acidic oak leaves, never use leaves at all, etc. But I did, anyway, and got great results because I worked them and waited until they were finely composted.

I have learned a lot by visiting your site, but, to be honest, I also knew a lot from years of trial and error. I can compost oak leaves completely in 15 or 16 months!

As you said, the waiting was interminable when composting just leaves and my vegetable additions.

One year, I had my husband throw the spring grass clippings on top of my 6 month old oak leaf compost. The pile just took off with heat and steam, and by August, I was pulling it over into my "almost ready" bin. I had to tend my piles, of course, stirring them up at regular intervals.

This year, I decided I would put my garden "to bed" by layering it with 6"-12" of hickory and beech leaves (the earliest to fall). I showered it with water and lightly tossed fertilizer over it to jump-start decomposition.

My hope is that it will keep the biology working over the winter and keep it from compacting so much from snow weight.

Is this a good idea, or a bad one?
I think it's a great idea. The only thing I'm a bit wary of is the fertilizer addition. Depends on what you added but some of them can have a negative affect on the decomposers. It should recover though so not to worry.

Could I till it under, or should I remove it come spring? Or should I not do this at all?
I would neither till it under nor remove it. In the spring just pull the undecomposed leaves aside from plants or rows where you want to sow seeds and let them go. You already have a weed suppressing and slow release nutrient source in place. The worms will be delighted to do the rest.

As for putting my ready compost over my fall gardens, I'd rather wait and add it as I plant. As you well know, the composted leaves reduce down to about 1/10 of their original leafy bulk, and I have to make that go the distance for all horticulture on my property (and protect it from my leaf-blowing fall clean-up guys).

Thanks for creating this website, it's very helpful! LYS

Good Luck
You Are Doing Great...


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