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Leaf mold is an easy to make and free soil amendment you can use in your gardens.
What Is Leaf Mold?
Are you wondering just what is leaf mold? I know it doesn’t sound like something wonderful does it? As gardeners we are normally trying to keep mold out of our gardens. But, this is different and it really is an amazing addition to your garden. Leaf mold is made by allowing leaves to sit and decompose over a long period of time. Really, it is just composted leaves that have not had any other organic matter added to the compost pile.
Benefits Of Leaf Mold In Your Garden
Compost is a wonderful addition to your soil and as a gardener, you might be wondering why should I make leaf mold and not just use compost?
While compost is an amazing resource for building soil fertility and structure, leaf mold is far better as a soil amendment. Leaf mold doesn’t feed the soil as much as compost does, so you will still need to provide compost and other organic fertilizers to your plants.
Where leaf mold really shines is in adding organic matter to your soil. Leaf mold is excellent at retaining moisture in the soil. Some studies have shown soils have retained 50% more water after the addition of leaf mold.
Organic matter also provides the perfect habitat for beneficial bacteria and earthworms in your garden. Now, who wouldn’t want that?
How To Make Leaf Mold
While leaf mold is great for your garden it takes some time to make. When you make compost you layer together sources of carbon and nitrogen, keep it moist and turn the pile often to aerate it. This helps the compost to break down quickly.
Leaves, on the other hand, are nearly all carbon, and this takes a long time to break down compared to grass clippings that are high in nitrogen. It will take 6 to 24 months to break down leaves into leaf mold on their own, depending on the method you use.
The simplest way to make leaf mold is to rake leaves into a large pile in the corner of your yard and leave them there.
It’s best to use an area that is sheltered from the wind. Using this method is simple but the leaves will break down slowly. It can take 1 to 2 years for a leaf pile to totally break down into fine organic matter this way.
One easy way to make leaf mold is to fill large garbage bags with leaves. Moisten the leaves a little and tie the bag closed. Cut a few slits or holes around the bag to help with air flow.
Place the bags in a shady area of your yard. Every few months check the bags and add some water if the leaves have dried out. This is a good time to give the bags a good shake to help aerate it too.
Another easy way to make leaf mold is to use a large composting bin. It should be at least 3 feet wide and tall to hold enough leaves so that it doesn’t dry out easily.
A very quick way to set up a bin for leaves it to place 4 wooden stakes in the ground in a circle or square shape and wrap chicken wire around it. Then fill it with leaves and thoroughly dampen the pile.
Using these methods the leaf mold will take 6 to 12 months to finish breaking down.
Tips To Speed Up Making Leaf Mold
- If you use the bin method to make leaf mold cover the pile with a tarp. This will help to keep the leaves moist and warm.
- Before adding leaves to your bin shred them with a lawnmower or leaf shredder. The smaller the leave pieces the faster they will decompose.
- Aerating your leaf pile will greatly help to speed up the breakdown process. If you’re using the bag method simply shake or turn over the bags every few weeks. If you’re using a bin method use your garden fork to turn the pile.
How To Use Leaf Mold In The Garden
Leaf mold has many uses in the garden.
Ideas For Using Leaf Mold
- Mix leaf mold into your potting mix to retain moisture in containers.
- Use it as a mulch around flowers and vegetables.
- Till it into the soil to improve water retention and soil structure.
- Use leaf mold as a substitute for peat moss. It does the same job as peat moss but it’s an easy to make and renewable resource.
- Make an easy potting mix for seedlings.
Make Seedling Potting Mix
You can use leaf mold to make a quick and easy potting mix for seedlings. Just mix 1 part leaf mold with 1 part fine compost and you have a rich potting mix for seedlings.
What If You Don’t Have Trees?
If you don’t have trees in your yard you can still find bags of leaves for free. Many towns have leaf pick up days when people have bagged up leaves from their yard put them out for pick up. Often you can pick these leaves up anytime. You can also check with your local town office to see if you can get leaves from their composting centers.
If you are lucky enough to live in a neighborhood with many trees, enjoy the crisp fall air and rake up some leaves to use as mulch, compost, or leaf mold. It’s free and easy to make great garden soil from.
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Kim Mills is a homeschooling mom of 6 and lives on an urban homestead in Ontario, Canada. Blogging at Homestead Acres she enjoys sharing tips to help you save money, grow and preserve your own food.