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by JANE BOGNER
SUNDAY, November 05, 2006
I love fall foliage. I get excited at the prospect of turning
crimson leaves into compost. To borrow a passage from a 1909
letter to the painter Claude Monet, his friend Octave Mirbeau
wrote, "In the fuming heaps I see the beautiful forms and
beautiful colors that will be born from it!" Placing leaves in
barrels for curbside pickup in not an option for me. They are
too valuable for the health of my garden for the next growing
I prefer to keep my golden beauties at home for my compost bins.
I am a lazy composter and prefer self-sustaining methods that
get the job done with minimal effort. Don't let the volume of
leaves discourage you from keeping them in your own yard. There
are several methods of sheet composting that can easily take
care of your leaves. Sheet composting is a bin-less method of
Leaves can be used as mulch under trees and shrubs. Keep the
leaves a couple of inches away from the trunk as mulch will
retain moisture. Partially-rotted leaves, known as leaf mold, is
perhaps the closest thing in nature to pure humus. The leaves
gradually break down, returning nutrients back to the soil while
controlling winter weeds.
The most common type of sheet composting involves layering
organic waste over a garden area. Leaves and other organic
materials such as grass clippings, manure and limited fruit and
vegetable wastes are spread in a 6-inch layer on the soil
surface. This organic matter will decompose over the winter.
Then you can work the finished compost back into the soil before
A new approach to sheet composting is called Lasagna Gardening
which results in a frame-less raised bed . Patricia Lanza needed
an herb garden for her country inn but didn't want the trouble
of digging up the soil. She perfected a method of layering
organic materials over an existing lawn then letting it
decompose before planting. Her book is available at the Library.
A couple of years ago I took the challenge and used the
following method with great success:
1. Smother your lawn (or weeds) by placing overlapping pieces of
cardboard or thick pads of black-and-white newspaper and water
2. Add a two- to three-inch layer of compost or composted manure
(bagged works fine).
3. Add a thick layer (four to five inches) of shredded leaves,
grass clippings, seaweed, straw, rice hulls, or any other
decomposable material you have available. Well-chopped kitchen
waste can also be layered near the bottom of the bed. Coffee
grounds from local coffee shops add a nitrogen boost.
4. Alternate layers of compost and leaves and grass until the
beds are 24 inches high.
The layers will break down over the winter and by spring you
will have rich soil that is ready for you to plant in.
Alternatively, follow the Lasagna Gardening method but only
build only a few inches using soil as the top layer. Plant
winter compost crops such as vetch, crimson clover or fava
beans. These crops will fix nitrogen in the soil and you will
have more fodder for your compost bins. I'd like to share one
more simple method that I have vowed to try this winter: Compost
in a Bag. The instructions are:
Fill a plastic garbage bag with leaves and some grass clippings.
Poke some holes in the bag and wet the leaves.
Scoop a shovelful of soil into the bag and shake it.
Shake the bag every few weeks and moisten the leaves if they dry
By next spring you should have dark, crumbly leaf mold! You can
now download our four composting flyers: Backyard Composting,
Using Compost, Compost Crops, and Earthworms are Easy from our
web site. Composting questions can be left at 707 55-EARTH or
through our web site.
SMOKE ALARM BATTERIES
All Batteries are banned from the landfill. Please do not put
them in your garbage. You can recycle household batteries at
VALCORE (38 Sheridan, Monday-Saturday, 9am - 4:30pm) or at
Vallejo Garbage Service (2021 Broadway, Thursday - Saturday,
Recycling Board Member Jane Bogner's "A Sorted Affair"
is published every other week in the Times-Herald, Community
Outlook Section. For recycling information call her at 645-8258 or visit www.VALCORErecycling.org.
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