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Mounds of maple leaves

Posted by blackdiamond Washington (My Page) on
Sat, Nov 9, 13 at 14:25

I am dealing with my first Fall on a 5 acre property with enormous maple trees. About 2 acres is landscaped with lawn and garden beds, the rest is natural forest of cedars, maples, ferns and other native plants. When the leaves started falling, I thought it was pretty cool; I'd just pile them up and have nice leaf mold for garden amendment.

Well, my piles grew and grew until the landscaped area was completely surrounded by about 3 feet of maple leaves. You guessed, when we got a strong wind, the leaves ended up back on the lawn and gardens.

I made 2 "bins" out of farm fencing; about 7' in diameter and 4' high. Have blown the leaves off the lawn and gardens and have already filled the bins, with still about 75% of the leaves to go.

I can make more bins, but in researching how long it takes for leaves to break down (2-3 years ?) it seems that I'll be overwhelmed with bins surrounding the property before I have any usable amendment.

What can I do to accelerate the process so that I have usable material in the Spring? I've heard coffee grounds and greens, but with this volume of leaves, I doubt what I can collect in short order would make a difference.

Thanks!


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Mounds of maple leaves

I love my large mesh bins with sweet gum, maple, and oak leaves. When I shred the newly fallen leaves, they practically compost themselves. Core temps often run 120 or 130F in three or four days. This late in the year, only a tiny percent of the mowers bag will be green grass.

Maple leaves tend to curl up much more than sweet gum and oak. You may have to compress them somewhat if they have not been already shredded. Normally you do not want to compress compost piles where the material is the correct size (small!).

If you have access to quantities of used coffee grounds from a local shop, these weight quite a bit. When I collected bags of used grounds in the past, I often dried them out a few days to reduce the chance they would unnecessarily compress the pile.

The easiest way to compost is just to wait for the right week in October or November, mow the leaves, and let nature do most of the work.


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RE: Mounds of maple leaves

Thanks robertz6. I just discovered where my lawn maintenance crew has been dumping lawn clippings all season. It is quite decomposed and is a significant amount of material. If I just shoveled a layer of that on top of the leaves in the bins and then added more leaves, would it help to hasten the process?


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RE: Mounds of maple leaves

You can throw some brushes on the pile to prevent the winds blowing them away. But once the get some rains, they will be packed down.


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RE: Mounds of maple leaves

While whole Oak leaves can take 2 or 3 years to be digested by the bacteria that do that, I have not seen even whole Maple leaves take that long.
Tree leaves can be mulch mowed back into the soil they came from and they have valuable nutrients to put back into that soil. Putting those leaves back into the soil will not significantly change that soils pH, either.
All leaves, whether piled up to make leaf mold or added to the compost pile, will be digested by the bacteria quicker if they are shredded some, whole leaves simply take longer.

Here is a link that might be useful: mulch myths


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RE: Mounds of maple leaves

  • Posted by ericwi Dane County WI (My Page) on
    Sun, Nov 10, 13 at 11:16

It is possible to shred tree leaves with an ordinary mulching lawnmower, and I did this for many years, until a windstorm took down part of our Norway maple, and we had to remove the rest of the tree. I would rake the leaves into a windrow, about 2 feet high, and pull the mower through backwards, making several passes, until the leaves were thoroughly shredded. Then I would rake up the leaf dust, which was greatly reduced in volume, and drag it to the compost pile on a pvc tarp. This was pretty time consuming-I think two or three afternoons were involved. It will go faster if you wait 'till all of the leave have fallen. If a gas powered shredder is used, the pile of leaf dust will be more concentrated in one spot, and I would think the operation will go faster. Given the number of trees that you have, this might be the way to go. Shredded tree leaves will heat up and become finished compost in less than 12 months.


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RE: Mounds of maple leaves

Thanks all. In just a couple of days they have compacted quite a bit. I'll blow the remaining leaves back onto the lawn and give them a good going over with the mulching mower. Should reduce the volume enough to get them all into four bins. Should I shovel a layer of decomposing lawn clippings over the layer of leaves before topping up with leaves, or just fill the bins completely with leaves? Since the bins are 7 feet in diameter and 4 feet high, it will be difficult to turn the material.


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RE: Mounds of maple leaves

  • Posted by ericwi Dane County WI (My Page) on
    Mon, Nov 11, 13 at 0:44

I have composted shredded maple tree leaves in about 12 months, with no added nitrogen or "greens," and no turning. It might be necessary to add water during drought conditions.


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RE: Mounds of maple leaves

To shred leaves with lawnmower, remove the bag. Close the chute (if any). Mow one pass (pushing or very slow speed)
After done that, put the bag on and mow again, collecting the chopped leaves in the bag.

If you have a mound of leaves, do the same. You have to work in manually position.
in either of these cases , if the leaves are fairly dry(not soaking wet) you will get a better result. I would mix those directly into the bed. No need to composting. Worms love that.


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RE: Mounds of maple leaves

I have a Mackissic Merry Mac chipper/shredder and I've shredded about 6 yards of leaves in a day. Hard work. The shredded leaves decomposed immediately and were usable the next year.

If that were my property, I'd invest in one of those lawn vacuums that shreds and bags the material that is vacuumed up.

And I would take kimmsr's advice if you don't need the leaves for compost or mulch; leave them on the lawn. I did this with mowed/shredded oak leaves and both the tree and the grass under the tree thrived the next year. At first you could see the shredded leaves in the grass, but it didn't take long before they seemed to disappear. Apparently, night crawlers will come to the surface and pull the bits of leaves into the soil. Green, green grass the next year.


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RE: Mounds of maple leaves

Definitely add your partially composted grass clippings in layers while you build up the pile. Compact as much as you can. Use a garbage can lid to smoosh it from all sides. Then jump in and roll around on it if you can. :-]

I found that mine still shrank from 3 ft. of compacted leaves in fall, to 1 ft. of half-composted leaves by the next spring. I have more than one leaf bin, so I combined all the half-done batches in one place, and refilled empty bins this fall.

Depending on how much grass clippings you have, it may go faster than you think.

And a leaf pile is a great place for, ah, nocturnal liquid nitrogen additions, if there are guys in your house. This will speed things up as well. Just sayin'.


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RE: Mounds of maple leaves

As idaho_gardener said,

"If that were my property, I'd invest in one of those lawn vacuums that shreds and bags the material that is vacuumed up."

I bought a used tow behind DR leaf vac a few years ago. It makes my life so much easier and shreds the leaves in to small pieces that decompose over the winter. My garden, where I dump them has improved so much since I got it!

toxcrusadr:

"And a leaf pile is a great place for, ah, nocturnal liquid nitrogen additions, if there are guys in your house. This will speed things up as well. Just sayin'."

Why just if if there are guys in the house? Women can add too! If they are shy there is always a bucket handy! ;)


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RE: Mounds of maple leaves

Indeed, and I did not intend to exclude. The quality is equally as good, it simply requires a bit more logistics. :-]


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RE: Hiding Leaf Bins

By the way, if you have a forest you can probably hide some of those fence corrals you made behind some of the trees. They do blend into the forest pretty well if the fencing isn't a highly visible type. Then it doesn't matter so much if they take 2 years to finish. You just wait till you can go into the forest and bring out the treasure.


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