Carefree Compost Using Fallen Leaves

Compost those fallen leaves right in your beds

Yesterday, I started the annual ritual of breaking down my fall leaves and raking them into my beds. It’s a process I’ve been at now for years and the results have been nothing short of amazing. Over the course of repeated years of this practice, my formerly rock hard beds of red Georgia clay are now the epitome of nearly perfect soil. I call it “TV soil” but in short, you can plunge your arm into it with relative ease. It’s such a simple and effective thing to do for the health of your garden beds I don’t know why more people don’t do it. In fact, I cringe at the sight of perfectly good leaves piled along the street or even worse, in garbage bags, for a one-way ticket to the landfill!

My process is as follows:

  1. Gather leaves onto lawn or mowable area.
  2. Mow over them with your mulching mower. You could use the bag attachment but this really does become a painstaking process since the bag fills up in seconds.
  3. Rake the shredded leaves into your beds, or leave them on your lawn to break down and feed your soil. (Many studies document the benefits of leaf mulch on lawns).

How easy is that? Now, I must admit, I vowed to retire my carbon-emitting gasoline powered lawn mower and I have now for a couple years. However, this is the one time I have to dig it out from the shed and put it into service. As much as I’d like to use my battery-powered mower, the drain on the charge renders it rather ineffective.
But, that super powered leaf blower that I used to use…it’s still in the shed. Although strapping that baby on to my back would make for quick work as I direct the shredded leaves into the beds, I fell better about he compromise of not using the blower, and I get the benefits of great exercise on a beautiful fall day.

Podcast: Why trees shed leaves in fall

Fall Leaves are a Gift to Gardeners


Joe Lamp'l is the Host and Executive Producer of the award winning PBS television series Growing A Greener World. Off camera, Joe dedicates his time to promoting sustainability through his popular books, Compost Confidential blog, podcast series, and nationally syndicated newspaper columns. Follow Joe on Twitter


  1. maxine insera says

    I have 4 Chicago Hardy Fig tree starts from
    Pinetree Seeds and want know how to plant.
    In a pot first I presume.
    I live in Buffalo, NY.

    • says

      They do great in pots Maine. Just make sure it has great drainage. That’s really all you need to know. Now, even though it is hardy, I would still bring it in for the winter time. A lot of folks lost their beloved “hardy” figs this past winter. Lesson learned!

  2. Pamela Caskey says

    I live in Quartzsite AZ and have recently planted some, peaches, apples, plums,nectarines, oranges, elderberry, pomagranet, and all ready have a lemon and a mandarin / kumquat tree growing. Can you give me some tips on watering it please. How much, how often and so on.
    We purchased them locally and were told they all grow here. we also got the ones we need to cross pollinate if needed.
    Thanks for your help.
    Pamela Caskey

  3. says

    We’ve been doing the same here for years Joe. Unfortunately, I still use two “carbon-emitting gasoline powered lawn mowers,” for a much too large grass carpeted yard.
    My little 20″ push mower has mulching blades that completely disintegrate leaves, on the other hand, my old Wheel Horse riding mower’s mulching blades chop leaves at just the right size to use as mulch and when wet, on top of newspaper for starting new flower beds.
    I’ve never used a leaf blower, and manually rake only when necessary.

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