Do you have too many leaves to handle? Composting does not need to take place in a bin, leaving the leaves on the ground will allow them to decompose. Here is a method for people with limited space.
The forest floor is a lush place, which is achieved through composting, the natural way. The trees drop their leaves. Rain waters the leaves. Animals step on them to help in the breaking down process. Insects and earthworms take from the leaves to further the decomposition. For the next growing season, the tree has a ready source of nutrients. We sweep our leaves away to keep the maintained look of our homes. Well, most of us do. I use leaves as a mulch in a few of my garden beds that are not in the obvious line of sight of my visitors, yet with so many leaves, I had to find other locations, which was not always with my wife’s approval. I had an idea last fall where I could use the leaves as a mulch path along the side of the house. I was not sure how this would work; however I am reaping the rewards of this compost for my late fall garden.
The experiment was simple: lay the leaves that I collected onto a path as a mulch. My wife was dubious. The leaves by themselves were not too attractive, and there was quite a pile. To improve the appearance, I applied a layer of wood chip mulch. My wife approved of this look. The path was a bit springy/soft for the first few weeks. This is a well traveled path, and it is located through garden beds where I frequently work. During the course of the year, I did not add to the path. I had to weed a few times. By summer, this was a well worn path.
The result of this easy compost was revealed over the past few weeks. I needed mulch/compost for a new garden bed, so I began to dig up the path. Leaves were beginning to fall from the trees, so I knew that I would have a replacement path covering. I found a rich compost mixture below. This was compacted material though. I broke the mixture apart, and now it is in the garden beds. The wood chips are still present, but I find that I will find large wood chips i compost bags that I buy from garden centers. I could sift the compost for a finer material, but I felt that this would be great as a top layer in a garden bed.
I have a shredder for chopping up the leaves and other prunings; however, I have been not been using this device. I could use this to make the wood chip mulch for the path, but I admit to buying cedar mulch for my path. Cedar repels unwanted pests, which is desired near these beds. The path is a little more than three feet wide and about twenty-five feet long. I am taking a little material out at a time, to be replaced with leaves as they fall. I am relying on my other composting systems for a finer grade of compost. No one realized that they were walking on the compost, and I water this ground when working on the beds. I did not add manure, but otherwise this method mimicked the natural composting method.
I was happy with the result of this experiment, and I want to see how I will fare next year. The benefit for me this year has been that I have a good deal of material for new garden beds, which I have been casually doing these last few months. I see neighbors who have ripped out their lawns in favor of simple beds. My vegetables have been quite attractive, and many a passer-by has not been able to separate vegetable from ornamental. I am sure to report on this experiment next year.