Tip of the day: Compost your leaves this fall

Consumer Reports News: September 06, 2007 03:53 PM

One of the most tedious seasonal chores is about to claim the top spot on your already lengthy to-do list: dealing with the countless fallen leaves that have accumulated on your property.

You could gather them in piles for your town to pick up or haul bagged leaves to a municipal facility—or perhaps simply ignore them. (We don't recommend that slothful move.) Instead, put the leaves to use by starting a compost pile and turning them into a rich fertilizer for your yard, flower beds, and planters. Follow these tips to get your pile started now so you'll have "black gold"—compost—ready for next spring:

• Collect leaves by raking them into piles or bagging them with a walk-behind mower or lawn tractor. Using a mower or tractor will reduce leaves to the right size for composting (they'll decompose faster than whole leaves). Don't compost black walnut leaves; they emit substances that can harm plants.

• You can make a composter with stakes and chicken wire or by using wooden shipping pallets. Just be sure to position the pile where the leaves won't blow or wash away. Or consider buying a composting bin. The typical model is about 3 cubic feet in size and allows air to flow through, helping with decomposition. (The University of Missouri Extension offers some interesting ideas for homemade composters.)

• Add grass clippings to the pile; try to keep the ratio at one part grass to three parts leaves. You can also toss nonanimal food waste on the pile, but you will need to turn it more frequently with a shovel, pitchfork, or specialized tool to prevent odors that will attract vermin—and annoy you and the neighbors.

Essential information: Learn more about composting and compost bins on GreenerChoices.org. For expert advice on lawn gear and ways to keep your yard looking its best, visit our Complete Lawn & Yard Guide. And use our tips to take care of your property and equipment this fall.

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