Passive Composting

I believe in composting. I keep three compost bins in action, doing my best to produce good soil amendment. It is NEVER enough. I do have lots of leaves, and I steal my foolish neighbor’s leaves when they leave them on the curb in those big, black, plastic bags. Don’t they realize they are giving away some good stuff?

For most of us, composting leaves is just too big a pain. The space it requires! The forking and turning. The just undeniable unsightliness of the entire process. I tried the big tumbler. What was I doing wrong? I tried composting barnyard waste. Whoa, the weeds! There must be a better way.

For some of you, passive composting might be worth a try. All over my garden, I have places where the mulch is thin, or the soil is poor, or nothing has yet been planted.  And, I have these wonderful leaves looking for a way to contribute to my soil health.

Passive Composting in Three Easy Steps

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Take a bag of leaves, move it to a place needing compost, and dump the leaves in pile.

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On top of the leaves, scatter 5 pounds of steamed, feed-grade alfalfa pellets ($15/50 lbs. at Tractor Supply or a “feed” store or farmers cooperative). Unlike livestock manure, alfalfa pellets are nearly weed free (only an occasional oat, in my experience).

passive composting with leaves and alfalfa pellets

Water the pile.

The leaves supply the carbon, the pellets supply the organic nitrogen, and the microbes and earthworms do the work. Next summer, you will have a small pile of perfectly acceptable compost without the bins, the turning, or the mess.

Mike Rushing

Mike and Paula Rushing have been gardening in St. Clair county since 1990, and In Forest Park since 2007. A Jefferson County Master Gardener and course instructor at Master Gardening classes, Mike also volunteers weekly at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens.

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