Black, Black, Gold

A busy weekend at Kilbourne Grove this weekend. The leaves are finally all down and  I had to rake them up.

A few years ago, we built two chicken wire leaf composters behind our cedar hedge. We used an old roll of chicken wire that had been in the garage, probably a mistake as it is not strong enough to hold the weight of the leaves without sagging. It will have to be replaced with stronger wire one day. We rake the leaves and pile them in one side one fall, then the other side the following fall.  Before the third fall comes along, I get to empty this black gold onto my flower beds.

You can see how full it is. This is this years leaves.

See how much the leaves have decomposed over the year.

Look at it. You can use it as it is, or wait another year for it to become finer. It is so beautiful, full of worms and smells amazing, so fresh and foresty. The garden loves it, it adds humus to my clay soil.


34 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    fairegarden said,

    Oh yes, that is a thrilling sight, Deborah! Just the stuff to feed the flower beds, I would use it now, being impulsive by nature! 🙂


    • 2

      Frances, if I had your weather, I would probaby be outside now, instead of hudded over a warm computer. Actually, I had just spread the two year old leaf moud, before refilling its “cage” with fresh leaves. Tezas bed, got a special thick coat!

  2. 3

    Gorgeous stuff, Deborah. So worth the back breaking work of raking all those leaves. I’ve done the same thing just a bit less glamorously by putting the leaves in large garbage bags and hiding them away behind a building. It works a bit faster than leaving them out because the heat can’t escape. Usually by spring there’s something workable to use in the beds.

    • 4

      Heather, isn’t it lovely. I have heard about the garbage bag method, good to know that it works. Right now I have the room for the cage, but you never know, I could need more garden space. lol

  3. 5

    Kiki said,

    Wonderful!! yes it will transform inot exactly what you need..nature is amazing!Great post!

  4. 7

    Janie said,

    My Husband, Emperor Bob, will not allow a compost pile here! He says it makes a mess, and we can get wonderful compost free, from the cotton gin, or from the county brush site. Either place will load it for us.

    It just seems like such a waste, throwing all those leaves away. I put the vegetable scraps in the worm composter in my stained glass studio, but I do feel wasteful about those leaves. We have compromised a bit, and he chops them with a lawnmower or the weed eater, so I can use them on my beds for mulch.

    I have done that garbage bag thing, carefully labeling them, so as not to save a bag of garbage by mistake, and it does work well.

    Great job! I would use it now, too.

    • 8

      Janie, I did not put all the leaves in this bin. Only about 1/2 of the garden leaves went in, the other 1/2 were mulched by the lawnmower (my husbands idea as well). If it had been up to me, I would have built another bin. Most people are saying to use it right away, maybe next year I will empty both sides and refill them both, that should hold all the leaves.

  5. 9

    teza said,

    Yes… more and more this seems the way to go. I have one of those black plastic monstrosities that the city gave when I moved, but it is too big and well…. it needs a sunny spot to do the ‘cooking’ properly. I cannot waste valuable planting space for this….. black gold or not. I have the spot labelled and am getting the chicken wire and posts next Spring.

    • 10

      Teza, I hate to say it, but I have three of those “monstrosities” as well. I will not waste valuable sunny ground on them, so they are not functioning properly, but I still get compost out of them (eventually). Ian will (eventually) get around to building me wooden ones.

  6. 11

    Cat Davidson said,

    Thankyou for your kind comments, i asked my friend to follow my step by step to see how easy it was to understand and he couldnt get past step one, so i was bit worried, apparently though it is just his brain block when it comes to ‘girly crafty things’ – sigh.
    Love your leaf mold – we use mountains of ours to mix in with the shrub compost mixes when we are potting on – they love it.
    All the best, Cat

    • 12

      Girls rule, boys drool, (according to my 12 year old niece). I thought the instrustions were very easy, of course, I am a girl! lol
      Interesting about the leaf mould, would love to know the formula for the shrub mix.

  7. 13

    miss m said,

    I can just smell it ! LOVELY !

  8. 15

    Liisa said,

    Beautiful stuff, Deborah. I am still trying to master the whole composting thing. But, I’m getting there. It would probably help if I could ingest some patience!! 🙂

  9. 17

    I am drooling over that handful of black gold. That is a beautiful thing. Can never have enough!

  10. 19

    Christine B. said,

    I wish I had the room for a big pile like that. I’ve got serious compost envy. My pile is teeny, tiny and I have to give away a lot of organic matter after spring cleanup because there is no room…so sad. I bet your soil is wonderful after adding your black gold.

    • 20

      Christine, it makes a huge difference having the space to compost like this. When we were looking for a house, a big garden was number one on my priority list. I have terrible clay soil, but my black gold is helping!

  11. 21

    I shudder when I see people bagging leaves for the trash man to haul away. That rich, dark compost is a wonderful reward for a little work and a lot of patience!

    • 22

      Isn’t it sad! I took a garden design course from a man who was obsessed with leaf mould. After the leaves had been “swept” of the streets he would have the dump truck come to his house and dump the load in his driveway. That is a lot of leaves!

  12. 23

    I shred mine with the mower to mulch my entire garden in the fall for the cold winter months. By the time the bulbs pop up in the spring, the worms have devoured all those bits and turned them into casting! What leaves don’t go in garden immediately go in my composter to add brown material. My composter isn’t working very fast either. But I mostly use it to reduce my trash – not too concerned about making fast compost.

    Your leaf mould looks fantastic!

    • 24

      Thanks, I also am not concerned with speedy compost, I should probably add some “brown”, but never have made a point of it, it still turns out (eventually). We did run over a lot of leaves on the lawn with the mulching mower, but the pieces seem really tiny. Do you rake those up?

  13. 25

    Barbara said,

    Hi Deborah, I use about half of my huge quantities of fall leaves to mulch the beds, and simply put the other half onto the compost heap(s). Do you think there’s a big advantage to composting the leaves separately? When I got my allotment it had two big closed plastic compost bins. The first thing I did was make another one out of wooden slats, but I must admit that the composting process is faster in the plastic bins, despite being in the partial shade. I’ve gotten rather fond of opening the lids and peering in to see how much the contents have shrunk as part of my daily garden inspection routine!

    • 26

      Barbara, from what I have read, leaf moud (when composted seperately is weed seed free, so it is used alot in seed and potting mixes. Compost, unless it is “cooked” very hot, could still have viable weed seeds. So, I guess it depends what you are going to do with it. The first year we were living there, I added leaves to our compost heaps, they just matted in the middle of the pile. I ended up taking them out.
      I think the plastic heats up and that is why they cook faster. But, wood is certainly more attractive.

  14. 29

    catmint said,

    beautiful beautiful black gold. I gathered lots of leaves from the street trees last autumn and put most of them directly onto the garden. Cut out a lot of work and seems to be working. I think it depends on the leaves. Oak rot down easily but plane tree leaves are large and thick.

    • 30

      Catmint, I had way too many leaves to put all of them on the garden. 1/3 is in the leaf composter, 1/3 on the garden beds and 1/3 was mulched by the lawnmower. Get as many leaves as you can find, they are so good for the garden!

  15. 31

    Teresa said,

    That compost looks so great for the plants. I wish I had a spot I could do such a thing. I would have trouble waiting for it though. I am a bit impatient.

    • 32

      Teresa, I am very impatient as well, but only working in my garden on weekends teaches me patience. After all, you can only get so much done, so that leaf mould just sits there, waiting!

  16. 33

    I enjoyed seeing your set up for leaves. I am excited to have lots of leaves in my compost area across the street, but I don’t have as many as usual in my home one. I need to get to the neighbors’ bags before they get picked up.

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