Leaf composting in a wire net cage
This is an easy and cost efficient way to make soil from dry leaves.
You just put them in a circular wire net cage, add some water and soil.
In two months you will have healthy leaf compost which is valuable for the plants and trees in your garden.
Making the cage
You can buy wire net at a hardware store, 3 ft times 10 ft will cost about 10,000 kyats.
This will make a cage with a diameter of a bit more than 3 feet, which is often a handy size. You need some pieces of wire to tie it together For about 1300 kyats, you get a coil which will last for many leaf cages. The only tool you need is pliers. You can also use plastic cable ties or rope.
Suitable to place under a tree
Shade will reduce evaporation and the need for watering. And duringthe rainy season, the water draining into the soil will provide nutrients to the tree roots.
Filling the cage
Start filling leaves and mix with some soil. This is for adding soil microbes. Compost soil is best, but you can take whatever soil (or sand/ash mix) you have. When the first batch of leaves have turned into compost, you can add that to the next batch. Water so that the leaves get soft and moist. Compact the leaves, for example by hammering them with a piece of wood, 2 x 4 inches is good, about 3 feet long.
Keep it moist
During the dry season regular watering is needed to keep it moist enough for the leaves to continue breaking down. The more leaves you have, the more water you will need (more evaporation due to the greater surface area). The amount of water will also vary with local wind conditions. A couple of buckets every second day should be sufficient. Less water will also work, but it will slow down the process.
When the cage is full
With a good moisture level, it usually takes a couple of months for the leaves in the cage to turn to compost. However, the side and top layer will remain dry and almost unchanged in appearance. You have to dig down a bit to see the compost. You can harvest the leaf compost by lifting the cage, or turning it to the side.
What to do with your leaf compost
The leaf compost you make in your leaf cage is very valuable for all kinds of plants. It has many nutrients that plants need, and also contains a lot of valuable microorganisms and possibly even insects.
You can boost your pot plants by adding leaf compost to the surface. 2-3 inches deep is often enough. This will also help protect the plant from rain and sun.
You can replant pot plants, or plant new plants, in a mix of half leaf compost and half existing ash/sand soil. They will grow to be stronger and healthier.
You can boost the plants in your vegetable and flower beds by applying leaf compost before you plant, or after you have harvested. If you already have plants growing, you can add leaf compost around the base of the plants. Be careful not to let it touch the stalks of the plants, as this may affect their growth.
You can put leaf compost around the base of trees. It will nourish the soil under the tree, and you can also plant something in the new layer of soil.
You can give also some to your neighbours for their gardens!
Talk to your neighbours!
Try putting a leaf cage outside your house and talking to your neighbours about what you are doing! If you also put a sign on it, they will hopefully start adding their leaves to the cage instead of burning them.