My neighborhood is 40 years old. I'm planning to only compost my backyard trees leaves. My front yard has a huge maple infected with scale and aphids, and has iron deficiency. The aphids suck moisture from the leaves so they're light green/yellow. Ants protect the aphids. I'm not planning to compost those leaves because I don't want aphids and scale in my compost piles.

A local garden columnist said he collects his neighbors' leaf bags every fall and mulches them in his garden and his compost piles. I like the idea of getting all those leaves, but I'm leery of getting leaves from diseased or bad insect-infested trees.

Should I or shouldn't I take a chance on using my neighbors' leaves?

UPDATE: I emailed the columnist and he never responded. I read somewhere that since the aphids stay on the leaves for moisture. When the leaves dry up in the fall they fly away or jump off. My 50' maple tree dropped a ton of leaves so I kept about half of them for mulching.

Still don't know about gathering neighbors' leaves for fear of disease, so I didn't get any. Any advice on that?

1 Answer 1


There will always be a chance of bringing disease into your yard when you bring in anything from outside of it. For most things, cold composting will not take care of any disease or pests that you introduce. However, you can always mitigate the risk by being careful of where you source materials.

If you are gathering leaves from your block (or very close by), you can probably be pretty sure that your trees and plants have already been exposed to whatever you have collected and either are healthy and fighting it off or are immune because it doesn't affect their species. If you are collecting from far away, you are taking the chance of exposing your trees and plants to new diseases. That being said, if you were to go buy some leaf mulch from a garden store, it would be just like taking leaves from a random yard. You would be exposing your plants to whatever was in that leaf mulch.

In my area, the big topic in regards to sharing leaf litter right now is jumping worms. They overwinter/reproduce in leaves and are easily spread by moving leaves around. They will completely change the makeup of your soil.

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