The Leaf Compost Experiment - Urine vs Compost vs Fertilizer vs manure vs Soil vs Nothing

making leaf mould compost in a bag
It's officially Autumn and that means leaves are beginning to fall! And this year I am collecting them with a purpose. In past years, I threw them all back into the forest form where they came or I tilled them into my garden soil.

This year I think I can do better. I am going to make Leaf mould. But not just any leaf mould. I am going to experiment to see which process makes the best, quickest, and easiest leaf mould.

So what I've done is rake up all the leaves. This is a continuous process so I've labeled each bag with the date it was collected.
making leaf mould compost in a bag
I only have cheap white bags so they will not get any solar benefit from black bags, and they're out of the sun anyway
I've also labeled each bag's contents. Basically, I filled each bag as full as I could with leaves. I pushed and shoved the leaves, hopefully breaking them a bit and making as many fit in as possible.

Then I labeled the bag, slashed it a few times with a knife, and added whatever was labeled on each bag.

Then each bag was left out behind my woodpile and in the shade of the forest (to protect from wind blowing the bags away and people getting crabby that I'm collecting "trash.") Once the canopy was bare, rain could get into the bags and did on occasion.

What's in the bags?
Bag 1 - Just leaves  *collected 10/11/2015
Bag 2 - Leaves, a scoop of garden soil, and a few jars of urine *10/11/2015
Bag 3 - Leaves, a scoop of garden soil, a few jars of water, and 2 household compost bins worth of scraps *10/12/2015
Bag 4 - Leaves, a scoop of garden soil, a few jars of water *10/12/2015
Bag 5&6 - Leaves and bits of winterizer fertilizer that were applied to the grass just before raking *10/16/2015
Bag 7 - All red maple leaves and a small bag (walmart size bag) of rabbit manure mixed with straw *10/19/2015
Bag 8- Leaves and grass mixed - black bag *10/26/2015
making leaf mould compost in a bag
A look inside the potty bag....It looks pretty normal
We are in zone 4 and have at least 5 cold months of winter ahead of us. Will the bags break down over winter? Will one break down better than the others? Will one make better compost than the others? How empty will the bags be by spring? All of this and more will be answered by May 2016.

The earlier bags contained mostly ash tree leaves. As the season progressed, maple began to fall, then oak.  There are no "pure oak" bags. Most contain a good mix of ash and maple, and a smattering of oak. When the oak leaves fell, I tossed them all into the forest. They take forever to break down.

None of the leaves were shredded, but I did stomp on them with my feet to compress them into a box for carrying to the bags. The bags were packed very tight, and more leaves were added a week later to completely fill the bags.

The goal is to assess them in spring. Any bags that are complete or mostly complete will be used as mulch in the garden. If none of the bags are complete, then their level of "completeness" will be assessed, then some bags will be left to rot over the summer and possibly the next winter, while others will be fed through a worm bin.

To Be Continued....
***UPDATE***  None of the leaves broke down over our cold winter (zone 4) and 2015 was very, very mild. They just stayed soggy/frozen leaves. They did start breaking down by spring but at that point I was in trouble with the HOA for having big "bags of garbage" in my backyard. I dumped them all into a compost pile and have been adding kitchen scraps to help them break down. These pictures are from early June 2016.

If anyone else has tried this experiment and can comment on which "accelerator" does the best job breaking down the leaves, I would appreciate a comment.

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Anonymous said...

Hi Angela, it's a shame you didn't get to complete the experiment but by the time you had to dump everything into a compost pile, were there any indication which were breaking down quicker? Fai

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