Prior to 2020, I had gathered over 50 bags of leaves. In my opinion, leaves are one of the best materials to use for gardening. They are usually free of a lot of the pesticides and herbicides that occur in a lawn or in field crop management. So, with all those leaves, I had a huge pile of plant material from which I could add “green” material to throughout the season to ensure healthy compost. Though I would have loved to have had something to mulch the leaves, I did not – so I just composted the whole leaves with everything else.
Similar to hot composting, when doing a “cool” compost, moisture makes all the difference. It enables bacteria, fungus, worms and other critters to thrive in an otherwise dry unhospitable environment. My compost over this time had both the nitrogen-loving composters (red wigglers) along with worms that mainly focused on breaking down the leaves and other carbon-rich material. Pillbugs, centipedes, earwigs along with fungus and bacteria played big roles in breaking down the material.
The process of composting took about a year for the more moist material, while the more dry leaves took well over a year to begin composting. I utilized the dry leaves to ensure that the surrounding area would not be effected by the decomposition of the leaves. Overall I would have to say that the technique worked out fairly well.