Turning Old Leaves into New Soil

How We Work "Greener" by Composting

Photo by Maria Gulley

Photo by Maria Gulley

In the maintenance department, one of our two major tasks this time of year is leaf removal (the other is decorating for Christmas - come back next week to see some of that). Back in January in our post on "green" practices at GoG I touched on what we do with all of those leaves, and today you'll get a more in-depth look at how we turn leaves into quality compost every year.

First, we collect all the leaves. Leaf removals usually start in late October and continue through December. In that time we keep piling the leaves higher and higher. We take care to keep out trash, sticks, perennial cuttings, and other materials that won't decompose at the same rate as the leaves. By the end of each season, we have collected 300-500 cubic yards of leaves.

We leave the pile alone over the winter. In the spring we add leftover fertilizer from the previous year that would otherwise go to waste. The fertilizer helps to jump-start the microscopic bacteria and fungi that will help break down the leaves. At this point we turn the pile for the first time to mix in the fertilizer and mix up what started to break down over the winter.

Photo by Maria Gulley

Photo by Maria Gulley

Over the course of the growing season, we turn the pile about once a month. We keep it piled as high as possible rather than letting it spread out because this helps speed up the composting process. Grass clippings and leftover sod scraps can be added to the pile. They will break down just as quickly as the leaves, and the fresh material can also boost microbial activity.

By the fall, our compost is ready! We move the pile to our working material bins, and our construction teams start using it on job sites. Adding compost to soil can increase fertility, reduce compaction, and improve soil structure. We love seeing the leaves come full circle to help other trees grow new leaves!


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