Photo courtesy Quinn Dombrowski/Flickr
As a follow up to Saturday’s article, here’s some more information on making leaf mold.
A pile of leaves left on its own will make leaf mold, given enough time. Unshredded leaves may take as long as three years, while shredded leaves will usually become leaf mold in 12-18 months.
Leaf mold is a form of compost that’s made by letting leaves decompose over a period of time. It differs from standard garden compost in a few ways.
Leaves will decompose through a cold fungal process, unlike regular compost which relies on heat buildup to create bacteria that breaks down organic material.
Although it doesn’t provide as many soil nutrients as compost, leaf mold greatly adds to soil structure. Leaf mold retains three to five times its weight in water, making it similar to peat moss as a soil additive. It also provides a habitat for earthworms and beneficial bacteria.
Leaves will make leaf mold on their own, but you can hurry up the process a bit, if you like.
To make leaf mold, place shredded leaves into a black plastic bag, compressing the leaves to pack as many as possible into one bag. Tie the bag closed, leaving an opening to insert a garden hose and set the bag in a part of your yard that will receive rain.
Poke holes in the bag’s surface with a sharp implement to create entry holes for worms, then insert a hose in the hole at the top of the bag and soak the leaves. Put the bag aside and ignore it for about six months, then turn the bag over.
In about 12-18 months, the result will be flaky one-inch particles of a rich, dark brown color. Fully broken down leaves will have the earthy smell of the forest floor after it rains.
Use leaf mold by digging it into soil, using it as a top dressing or mulch, or mixing it with water to create a tea for watering plants.