Extra Resources

Loading the player ...

Click Here to Download This Call

Suggested Reading

For a deeper look into this module read the following:

Four Season Harvest: p. 43-45

The New Organic Grower: p. 68-81; 111-118

Join the Discussion


  • Serena

    Reply Reply June 8, 2015

    Thank you Paul,
    A few questions.
    We have lived here two years and have not been putting chemicals on our lawn. But we don’t know about the family before us. Would it still be ok to use the clipping from the lawn?

    Can the dirt you put on the compost be old used dirt?

    • Paul

      Reply Reply June 9, 2015

      You are welcome Serena!

      And yes, you can throw old dirt on the compost pile. I wouldn’t throw a lot of it on – but it would be fine. Are you specifically thinking about giving it a little microbe boost? I’d just do a shovel full or two (depending on how big your compost pile is).

      And as for your lawn – I’d say it is safe to use the grass clippings. Even if the previous owners used chemicals on the lawn, the two year wait has been good. Official organic crops need at least a three year wait before growing food organically on the land. I’d guess that two is sufficient especially if it’s questionable if the prior owners used chemicals or not.

  • Becky Chesnut

    Reply Reply September 24, 2015

    You said not to compost leaves with the regular compost. Is there any special way to help leaves break down? Do you mix any nitrogen material at all with them? Is the size of pile the same? I have lots of leaves every fall, so am anxious to know how best to use them.

    • Paul

      Reply Reply December 3, 2015

      Hi Becky, I’m so sorry that I totally missed getting to your question earlier here. There are ways to help leaves break down. First you will want to shred them into smaller pieces if possible. You can do this by running over them with a lawn mower or using a weedeater (although that would probably be more work).

      And yes, if you want compost then you’ll want to mix a nitrogen source in with them. This could be manure, green grass clippings, or even some fresh kitchen scraps. If you decide to add nitrogen then you’ll want to use 5 parts leaves to 1 part manure or 2-3 parts fresh grass clippings.

      Otherwise leaves will break down without the added nitrogen into leaf mold. Leaf mold may not be as rich as compost but it helps with the structure of your soil.

      And when it comes to the piles, I’d keep them the same size as regular compost piles.

      Here’s a great resource to learn a lot more about leaf composting…

  • Sarah

    Reply Reply December 3, 2015

    Hey Paul,
    I just watched that video and I saw one inconsistency:
    in the 17th minute you are saying the best ratio was around 3 parts of browns and to 1 part of greens.
    In minute 31 you are saying that the best compost pile would be layered with around 3 parts carbon (browns) to 2 parts nitrogen (greens).
    How is it?

    I really do like your presentations. There are well structured and really easy to understand. Thank you. Keep it up!

    • Paul

      Reply Reply December 3, 2015

      Thanks so much for pointing this out Sarah! I’ll need to update the video!

      The correct ratio is 3 to 1. If anything use more browns than greens.

      And thanks for the encouragement! I’m glad it’s a blessing!

  • Patty Stapleton

    Reply Reply October 5, 2016

    Paul I just listened to the “Making Quality Compost” class. You said not to mix leaves and greens since they break down with 2 different processes–one with bacteria and the other with fungus…By contrast, in your advice to Becky , she could mix nitrogen sources like grass clippings, manure, the “green stuff’ to break the leaves down into compost. so what is the difference here. The classes are great. I’ve been inspired! Thanks.

    • Paul

      Reply Reply May 1, 2018

      Hi Patty, great question! Yes, the truth is you can mix the two and it will work. Just if you have the option, I’d keep them separate. If leaves are the only “brown” ingredient around then definitely use them and it will work in your compost pile. They just do break down with a different process than the other materials. I should have made it more clear in the class. But either way you will still get compost! 🙂

  • Nick

    Reply Reply April 19, 2018

    Hi Paul, I have the same question as Patty, about mixing the leaves and kitchen scraps. I’ve been building a compost pile for a few months now that started with leaves raked up last fall and kitchen scraps have been added to it over the winter. Have I ruined the pile with that mix? Do I need to start over? Or, how should I structure the pile going forward?
    Also, for this season while I wait for my compost pile to build up and become humus, is there a source I can get good humus from to add to my garden for this growing season? Thanks Paul!

    • Paul

      Reply Reply May 1, 2018

      Hey Nick! Great questions. First, good news. No you haven’t ruined your compost pile. You can use kitchen scraps and leaves to compost together. It’s not that it can’t be done they just do decompose with different processes (one is mainly fungal and the other mainly microbial). So we tend to try and keep the two in different piles but it’s not completely necessary and it will still work for you. I’d keep up with what you are doing and watch it decompose. Next year you may want to do them separately. But if dry leaves are the only “brown” ingredient that you have readily available it is better to use them than nothing! 🙂

      As for your second question, it really varies so much by location. I’d look at your local garden centers or nurseries for quality compost. Mushroom compost is often good. Worm castings are another good option. Also, check with local farmers or other gardeners to find out where they are getting it.

* Denotes Required Field