Leaf Corrals

Though we have lots of trees in our yard, we find it easy to accommodate all the leaves generated each fall, using several strategies together. Some leaves are mowed back into the lawn, others remain as mulch around shrubs, and the rest are raked together and tossed into leaf corrals.

We have two types of leaf corral, whimsically named The OK Leaf Corral and the Wishing (the Earth) Well. Both are made of green, plastic-coated wire fencing 3 feet high that makes a circle 3-6 feet in diameter. It helps to have a couple metal stakes for stability, and some zip ties to hold the fencing together. A 6 foot diameter leaf corral holds lots of leaves, and they quickly settle with each rain or snow, so that still more can be added.

It's easy to build a leaf corral, large or small, into which leaves are flung so they cease their windblown travels, settle down, and start maturing into compost. I put them out in the open, in my front yard, for demonstration purposes, but they can easily be hidden behind some shrubs in a corner of the backyard. They're a convenient place to put non-woody trimmings during the summer.

The leaves will decompose more quickly if they're moist. Rains help with this, but it's a good idea to check now and then for dry spots in the pile. In the fall, before more leaves fall, I lift off the fencing, pull away the outside layer of leaves, and find inside a wheelbarrow-full of rich compost to use on the garden. The leaf corral is then ready for another year of accommodating leaves from the yard.

An optional feature (to take care of two organics issues at once!) is a cylindrical insert made of critter-proof hardware cloth, into which can be tossed vegetable food scraps. Because it looks a bit like a well, I call it the Wishing (the Earth) Well. The food scraps are surrounded and hidden by the leaves, all of which will decompose together--odorlessly, because the decomposition is aerobic. If you have an old hubcap around, it makes an unexpectedly attractive, sundisk-like lid for the food scrap cylinder.

I built this Wishing (the Earth) Well in our front yard along busy North Harrison Street, to show passersby an alternative to placing leaves loose in the street. A sign on it tells passersby to drop a leaf in, and make a wish. And they do it. Construction details can be found at this link.

There are many other designs for food scrap composters. This one has the advantage of fending off critters, of being buffered visually and temperature-wise by the surrounding leaves, and not requiring any chopping up of the vegetable scraps. Once you get used to composting food scraps, it feels very strange to go somewhere else and have to mix food scraps in with the trash. They belong in a composter, not in the trash can.

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