How To Make Leaf Mold

Turn Falling Leaves Into Garden Treasure

Falling leaves can bleach a lawn, foul a pond and make garden paths slippery and hazardous. Collecting them up is a fall gardening task in many gardens. Once they have been collected then it's just a short step to making leaf mold -- a wonderful soil improver for the organic garden.

  1. Collect your leaves. Whether you use a leaf blower or just a rake, the first step to making leaf mold is to collect your leaves. If you have leaves on the lawn, try running the mower over them on its highest cut setting -- it will collect them in the grass hopper and chop them up for you at the same time.
  2. Fill your container. Don't put fallen leaves on a regular compost heap -- they take much longer to break down than compost. You can make a simple leaf mold bin from 4 stakes and some chicken wire, leaving the leaves open to the elements. Or you can just use plastic sacks. Stuff wet leaves into plastic sacks, tie the top and make a few holes in the bottom (a garden fork is good for this).
  3. Forget about it. Put your leaf mold container at the bottom of the garden, out of sight and out of mind. It will be at least a year before you can use your leaf mold, but it doesn't need attention in the meantime.
  4. Mulch/ improve your soil. After a year, your leaf mold will be suitable for use as a mulch, or can be dug into the soil as a low fertility soil improver. This means that, although it doesn't add much in the way of nutrients, it aids water retention, improves drainage, maintains a good soil structure and encourages the soil organisms that make soil fertile.
  5. Cover and protect. Leaf mold also makes a great winter cover for bare soil. Or use it to cover the crowns of perennial plants to protect them from frost.
  6. Make potting mixes. If you leave your leaf mold to rot down for 2 or 3 years then you will have the perfect addition to homemade potting mixes. Try equal parts of leaf mold, garden compost and loam for a basic potting mix. 3 parts leaf mold to 1 part worm compost would give you a much richer mix. Or equal parts of loam and leaf mold makes a seed starting mix.
  7. Don't use leaves from the roadside, which may have been contaminated by vehicle exhausts.
  8. And don't collect fallen leaves from woods and forests -- you will damage the local ecosystem.

 

 

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