Building a leaf composter is an excellent method of getting rid of dead leaves in your yard. Not only is it ecologically conscious to compost rather than bag dead leaves for disposal in landfills, but it provides some of the best nutrition for grass and flower beds. With a little investment of time and elbow grease lawn trash becomes black gold.
Gathering and preparing dead leaves and organic trash is the first step in building a leaf composter. Leaves should be gathered into a large pile to be contained within the composting area. These leaves should be shredded before piling them. Shredding helps aide in breaking down the dead material into the final useful compost in a quicker manner. Whole leaves can be used but the composting cycle will take longer to complete.
The pile of shreds needs to be contained in one area to reduce the chance of littering the rest of the property. Containing the pile is usually done in two ways. One common method is to fence in the pile using 4 to 5 foot stakes made of strong wood. These stakes are wrapped with wiring. Chicken wire is common but in windy areas or areas inhabited by wildlife drawn to such piles, heavier chain link fencing should be used.
Keep in mind that the pile should never be located in areas exposed to prolonged sunlight. If the pile heats up and dries out, it will possibly catch fire. Remember, the composting process produces heat as part of the break down process. The holes in the wire provide needed ventilation for the heat buildup to dissipate. If the composter must be built in direct sunlight it should be contained in a bin rather than a fence. The bin should be covered to block out the sun. The bin must have holes for ventilation and drainage drilled throughout its surface.
Once the basic leaf composter is built, the composter bin or area must be maintained. The pile should be kept moist with water and not left to dry out. Using a spade or pitchfork to turn the pile every two to three months is also very beneficial and will speed up the process. Regularly turning over the compost pile will help release heat also. Ignoring heat buildup will kill beneficial bacteria and hamper or stop the composting process. In extreme cases the heat buildup may cause the leaf composter to self-ignite.
Mixing the leaves with other organic matter helps speed up the composting process. Adding table scraps and shredded newspaper and old paperback books is an idea. Never add meat or non-vegetable matter to your pile. These materials can attract unwanted pests and even kill beneficial organisms critical to the composting process.