Garden News Blog

Fall Leaves: Coming Soon!

If you compost, this time of year is probably one of your favorites. The air is crisp, the garden still looks beautiful, and, best of all, leaves are starting to fall from the trees. Why would mounds of leaves excite the average composter? They are an essential ingredient in a pleasant-smelling, fast-decomposing compost pile.

Composting requires a balanced mix of carbon and nitrogen, and whether you compost food scraps or garden clippings or both, dry, carbon-rich leaves make the perfect companion to those moist, nitrogen-rich materials. We recommend that composters add a 1:1 ratio of “browns,” (as we call carbon-rich matter like leaves) and “greens,” (nitrogen-rich matter like grass and veggie scraps). Dry leaves are also less likely to become compacted than moist ingredients, so they allow air pockets and help oxygen penetrate; they also provide habitat for important decomposers, like beneficial bacteria and fungi and larger organisms like springtails, earthworms and roly polys.

So don’t forget to collect your autumn leaves for compost. If you can, keep some on standby since browns are often hard to come by at other times of year. Later, take some from your reserves when you add grass clippings or food scraps. And for even more information and advice on boosting your soil’s health the natural way, attend Soil Spa Basics: Using Mulch, Leaves and Cover Crops to Revitalize Your Soil.


Jenny Blackwell is an assistant gardener at BBG and the former project manager for the NYC Compost Project hosted by Brooklyn Botanic Garden. She is a graduate of BBG’s Horticulture Certificate Program.

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Autumn comes but once a year, and, as these young Brooklynites know, the season offers a great opportunity to stockpile fallen leaves, an excellent source of carbon for composting. Photo by Anne Pope.