For many gardeners, fallen leaves are a perpetual clutter that needs to be constantly tidied up. But did you know that these dead leaves can bring new life to your garden?
Today we’ll be talking about leaf mold and how you can use it in your garden. Let’s get started!
What is Leaf Mold?
Leaf mold is partially decomposed leaves. It has dark brown to black material with an earthy sweet aroma and a crumbly texture.
Unlike in a typical compost pile though, making leaf mold is not dependent on beneficial bacteria and heat. Instead, it relies on fungi to break down the thin and thick leaves.
It’s a much slower process too. Making a leaf mold pile can take one to three years before the leaf compost is available for you to put to good use in your garden.
Leaf mold compost is an excellent soil amendment that can help the soil retain moisture content by reducing evaporation and absorbing rainwater. If you live in a hot climate, the crumbly leaf mold can also be used to cool down the soil temperatures and plant roots, and foliage of your plants.
Leaf mold is also useful for feeding the soil food web. When a layer of leaf mold is used as a mulch, it can increase biological and worm activity.
Plus, leaf mold is also great for improving the bare soil structure. If the soil structure in your own garden and garden beds are compacted, mixing some rich leaf mold from your leaf mold bin before planting season can help aerate the soil. This can help the roots of your plants grow deeper.
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How to Make Leaf Mold
Despite the long time needed to break down a pile of whole or shredded leaves into a usable soil amendment, this type of compost takes less effort than a typical compost pile. There are two common methods for making leaf mold and both are an extremely simple process.
The first method involves piling fresh leaves in a corner of your yard, in a wooden bin or compost bin. Make sure that the pile or the bin is at least three feet wide and three feet high. Pile up your fall leaves and thoroughly dampen it. Let it sit for at least 12 months. Occasionally check the moisture level especially in hot weather so you can add water as necessary.
The second method involves filling a large plastic bag (a garbage bag works very well) with autumn leaves and moistening it before sealing. Poke holes to promote air flow and air circulation. Let your leaf mulch sit for at least 12 months checking it every couple of months for moisture.
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Like we mentioned earlier, leaf mold can take a while to make. But there are tricks you can do to speed up the decomposition process like:
- Shredding the leaves before putting them in your pile or in a bag. The smaller pieces will decompose more quickly than whole dry leaves.
- Turn your leaf pile every few weeks to introduce air and speed up the decomposition. If you’re using the bag method, turn it over and give it a good shake.
- If you’re using the pile or leaf bin method, you can cover it with a sheet of plastic to keep the leaves consistently moist.
How to Use Leaf Mold
Once leaf mold is soft and crumbly, you can start using it. You can distribute it around perennial and vegetable beds as a mulch. Make sure, however, to use no more than 3 inches since it can retain a lot of moisture.
You can also mix leaf mold into the soil to lighten sandy or heavy soil. It’s perfect for container gardens, vegetable gardens, flower beds, and shade gardens.
Have you ever used leaf mold? What is your favorite method for making and using it? Leave your tips below.