What have you done with your leaves? At the Memphis Zoo, the
Horticulture Department collects our leaves at the end of the “drop season.”
This started due to the Dinosaur experience. We saved the leaves to use as a
mulch to conceal our equipment. The leaves were left at the end of the season
and we discovered in September a wonderful pile of composted material which we
call leafy bits.
We use the “leafy bits” compost as mulch on our flower beds and
around our tree circles. It provides organic nutrients to the soil that has
been depleted through the year. In every annual bed, we add a two to three inch
layer and till to a depth of six to eight inches. We then rake it smooth and
plant annuals or perennials.
How to save your leaves
We have a wonderful staff that uses backpack blowers to blow our
leaves into a huge pile. After the pile has been formed, we bring a truck with
a leaf vacuum. The leaf vacuum sucks up the leaves and cuts them up to smaller pieces.
The Memphis Zoo has a large variety of leaves such as sycamore, sweet gum,
mulberry, hackberry, birch, oaks, maples, magnolias, gingko, and pines. After
our truck is full of leaves, we unload in an area away from the public view
that allows the leaves to break down. We push the piles together and allow them
to cook. Our pile is quite huge and unwieldy. We do not turn the pile or keep
it watered. Some of the leaves start wet and it rains somewhat throughout the
summer months. Nature has done a wonderful job of creating compost from our
Instructions from the City of Nashville, TN on backyard
composting, recommend using a combination of kitchen waste, grass clippings and
leaves. You can go to this website for further information We are using the material that best suits our
needs and our compost pile is nearly pure leaves with some sticks. In other words, we use what is available.
How do you know when your compost is ready to use
You can tell by when the smell emitted is a fresh, earthy scent.
The feel of leafy bits compost is crumbly, moist, and packed together. The look
is all black gold.
On your next visit to the Memphis Zoo, check the gardens to see
if you notice our leafy bits mulch. The soil is improved with the addition of
nutrients. The plants are happier with the infusion of organic matter to the
soil. You will be happier saving the leaves from the landfill and providing
nutrients for a beautiful garden.
We look forward to seeing you during your next visit at the