Now is the time to rake those leaves that are beginning to smother your grass and put them to work in a compost pile. Start with six to eight inches in a pile at least three feet in diameter. You can use a compost cage, which is neater, or just start a pile. (Then scoop up the rest of your leaves, preferably as they fall, and pack them in plastic bags–at least twenty of them. Leave out the larger twigs, pecan hulls, and anything else that won’t break down at the same rate as the other components you are going to add.)
Then throw on a layer of banana peels, coffee grounds, and other vegetarian scraps from the kitchen, making sure that no fat or meat is included. Then add a layer of your saved leaves. Also mix into your scraps small green weeds with some dirt left on the roots. For each layer of leaves, try to get an inch of fresh material.
By next summer, your pile should be at least three feet high. Then you can forget about it until fall, by which time all the very outside will be ready to use. You can turn the pile periodically and have a neater result or just let it go and mix it a little as you use it. For a faster result, shred the leaves, incorporate some nitrogen pellets, and water the pile often.
Rosemary Moyers, former Smith County Master Gardener
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service