Many people in the fall collect and burn leaves and plant refuse from the garden; then in the spring they pay high prices for packaged organic materials for their garden, when what they are buying is nearly the same thing they destroyed.
The leaves and other material can be used to make compost. Composting is nature's original way of recycling. It is the lifesaving and perpetuating process by which wastes from plants and other organic material (including animal) are reconverted into fresh organic matter necessary for the continuation of life.
Making compost can be an inexpensive project. As the leaves drop, they can be raked and placed in an enclosure surrounded by woven wire that will hold them in place.
If the compost pile is kept somewhat moist, soil microorganisms will bring about decay and the resulting material will be high-class organic matter. And bad odors can be prevented.
Place a layer of loose leaves, two feet deep, on the ground inside the enclosure. It is better not to dig a hole in which to start the compost pile because it may affect aeration and if aeration is poor, bad odors result.
Max other materials with leaves if they are available. A small amount of good surface soil mixed with the leaves will speed decay.
Sprinkle 20 pounds of 5-10-5 fertilizer over the two-foot layer of leaves. Wet thoroughly. On top of the leaves put a two-inch layer of soil (this isn't a must). The soil keeps the nitrogen from leaching away.
Add three more layers of leaves, each two feet deep, fertilize and moisten each one.
Water the pile during prolonged dry weather to keep the material moist but not dripping wet. Decay will be speeded if the pile is turned in late winter or early spring. Shredding the leaves speeds composting considerately. They can be shredded by running over them a few times with a rotary mower.
The compost pile usually heats up in a few days. The heat is generated during biological oxidation. The temperature may reach 150 degrees, followed by gradual cooling to atmosphere temperatures.
Inadequate aeration can cause offensive odors. Turning the pile with a pitchfork to improve aeration will take care of it.
Maple leaves are likely to mat when they get wet and prevent air movement in the pile. The same is true of grass clippings. Mixing them with sycamore or oak leaves before putting them on the pile will prevent mattings.