Can I compost the leaves and branches on my yard? Yes, and Ed will help.

Dear Eco-Ed:

It’s that time of the year again, and although I love the color of the changing leaves, my yard is starting to get covered in them.  I’ve always raked them out to the curb, but I’ve heard a lot about composting.  Is there a better way to deal with all these leaves

- Curious About Composting

Dear Curious About Composting:

Every year, I think it’s a shame when I drive through the streets of Bergen County and see all those precious leaves in the road, blocking traffic, causing water runoff hazards, and costing the towns money to pick them up, when a simpler, more productive option is so much more practical.  Those leaves create vital nutrients for the soil.  By removing them, most people create the need to replace them with chemical fertilizers the next season.  An easier solution is to create an area in your yard for composting the leaves.  This area can be as simple as piling them in a corner, or by using a composting bin, which can be purchased in any garden or home center (or at the Bergen County Utility Authority at ½ price!)

MYTH DEBUNKED:  Contrary to popular belief, composting piles do not carry an offensive smell.  This only happens if you add a large volume of grass at one time, or kitchen scraps such as meat, bones or fish.

It is often said that composting is nature’s way of recycling, but that’s not quite right, either. Decomposition is actually nature’s way of reusing organic (or “once-living”) materials, and when we understand and then control that process… that’s composting.  The leaves can be picked up with a shredder or lawn mower, so that the sheer volume is significantly reduced.  This also jump starts the composting process, as the shredded leaves decompose faster.  Compost is created when organic residues such as tree leaves, grass clippings, garden trimmings, etc. are combined and piled up into a heap. The organic material is then decomposed by microscopic creatures (microorganisms) and transformed into humus or mulch, highly valuable soil improvers. The microorganisms – healthy, invisible “bugs” – will then do most of the work for us.

Compost is not soil. Soil is not made from minerals: sand, silt, and clay. There are good soils and poor soils, and gardeners will tell you that we can greatly improve the quality of the soil in our yards and gardens by increasing the organic content.  For additional information, read the detailed guide to composting written by Master Composter Gray Russell.

Guide to Home Composting