Those Raked Leaves Are Piled Treasure

This Thanksgiving season as brightly colored leaves fall from the trees, instead of thinking of them as a nuisance that you’ve got to gather up and put curbside, why not see them for the free resource they really are? Decomposed leaves are excellent mulch and all-purpose soil amendment for your flowers, lawn, favorite plants and vegetable gardens. Light and spongy, leaf mold compost has lots of air pockets, which encourage worms and other beneficial organisms to live in your garden soil. It is also slightly acidic, which can balance a pH problem in your vegetable garden if your soil is too alkaline (your pH is near 8 and you want to bring it closer to the 6.5 – 7 range).

At our November PTA Clean and Beautiful workday, Chesnut family volunteers and Chesnut Changer students joined forces to collect more than a dozen bags of leaves destined to be next year’s leaf mold compost. Meanwhile, Chesnut Garden Leader Carissa Malone opened eight bags from last year’s compost project, adding the finished leaf mold to the cabbage and garlic beds.

So doing, we kicked off a new Chesnut tradition:  annual leaf mold composting to feed our school garden! Taking the abundance of our local renewable resources (fallen leaves from the school’s front lawn), and converting them into a soil conditioner for our veggie garden is a great example of a self-sustaining practice that anyone can adopt. Here’s how we do it:


AT-HOME ACTION: Make Your Own Soil Amendment – Leaf Mold Compost



1. Rake leaves into large construction-grade black plastic bags (wrapping an empty bag over a garbage can speeds the process). Compress leaves to pack as many as possible into one bag.










2. Tie the bag closed, leaving an opening to insert a hose and tuck the bag away in a part of the yard that gets rain.





3. Poke holes all over the bag’s surface with a screwdriver, scissor, etc. (to allow worms to enter).






4. Insert hose to soak the leaves.




5. Six months later, turn the bags over.

6. Compost should be ready within 12 – 18 months. Finished compost will be broken down into flaky 1″ particles of a rich, dark brown color. Add to garden beds when turning over the soil in between seasons or use as top dressing/mulch. If your black bags are in good shape, refill them with next year’s leaves!

The Chesnut Changers are grateful to PTA Clean and Beautiful Co-Chairs Andrew Hirst and Mona Henderson for their immediate and constant willingness to work with the ecology club on these sustainability initiatives. Part of the fun of combining ecology club projects with Clean and Beautiful workdays is meeting more Chesnut families who may already have or develop an interest in green practices as we work together. And of course the extra manpower is a huge help. Thank you!


4 responses to “Those Raked Leaves Are Piled Treasure

  1. Pingback: Someone Go Out and Turn the Compost, Please! « Green-ish Life

  2. Pingback: Getting The Soil Ready

  3. Pingback: Leaf It for Compost – Instead of bagging « EcoUtopia Living

  4. I have an electric leaf blower that can easily convert to a vacuum. The motor has a metal impeller at the end of the motor shaft, which creates the wind it produces as a blower. Converted to a vacuum, that same metal impeller chops up the leaves that are vacuumed up and deposits them into an attached cloth bag. Once the bag is filled, I unzip the bag and scatter the chopped leaves in the garden and flower beds! In the spring I simply turn the soil over, mixing in the natural compost I deposited the previous fall!


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