Leaves Are Compost Gold

We have big maple trees in our yard. I love their shade, but hate the helicopter seeds that sprout everywhere in the spring. The trade-off is the leaves that cover my yard in the fall. I run the mulching mower over them (with the bagger on the mower) and dump them in wire cages scattered around my small property. I’m too lazy to carry the bag very far. The leaves shrink down to half by spring when you can spread the leaves as mulch. On the very bottom will be black compost. These three bins were overflowing in October.

mulched leaves

A couple of months ago I found a Ted talk about composting. It convinced me that I was on to something by hoarding my leaves. (I’ve even been known to pick up bags of leaves left out for the trash.) Watch this talk and next fall you’ll guard the gold under your trees.

A couple of weeks ago I succumbed to yet one more garden book. I was seduced by the title, “Gardening Without Work,”  but moved to place an order on Amazon by the sub-head which read, “For the Aging, the Busy and the Indolent.” Like I’ve said before, I consider myself a lazy gardener and Ruth Stout considered herself the laziest gardener of them all.

Gardening Without Work

Ruth died in 1980, but I knew her from her articles in the 1970’s in Rodale’s Organic Gardening Magazine. Ruth was the first person to talk about how she used rotten hay to mulch her garden. She pulled the hay aside to plant seeds or plants and then snugged the hay back around transplants or seedlings. She didn’t use fertilizer. She didn’t spade or double dig. She didn’t irrigate or weed. If the hay sprouted she simply turned it over. She grew potatoes by laying whole potatoes on the hay and piling more hay on top.

Reading this book made me think about getting some hay for my community garden bed and trying this method. I went on Craig’s list to see if anybody had rotten hay. People had hay for sale, but nothing was free. I could live with that. But then I started following some comment threads about the fact that now most hay is sprayed with who knows what and you probably don’t want to put it on your vegetable garden. Ruth must be turning over in her grave. I think I’ll pass on the hay, and mulch my community garden bed with shredded leaves.

6 thoughts on “Leaves Are Compost Gold

  1. Ruth Stout’s first book, How to Have a Green Thumb Without an Aching Back, FIRST PUBLISHED IN1955, was the book I first used to begin my lifelong affair with gardening. It still sits at my bedside as a reminder of her philosophy and hard learned lessons about gardening. A wonderful book, full of funny anecdotes and single minded doggedness in the pursuit of gardening wisdom.

  2. Lin, the book I just bought had a lot of her stories which were wonderful. All those people showing up to see her garden. Today we would say Ruth Stout was an authentic person.

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