- Category: General gardening tips
- Published on Thursday, 05 November 2009 12:51
- Written by Graham
- Hits: 417
Autumn is a great time to start making leaf mold. Even if you are not lucky enough to have deciduous trees in your garden, you can visit local parks or even tree-lined streets to gather leaves.Wait for a wet day when the wind has blown leaves from the trees, and collect a few large plastic bags. I find that a rainy day is best since the leaves are easier to gather, compress easily and are already wet so ready to start the process. I fill old plastic compost bags with them, cut a few holes in the side to allow some air circulation, then leave in an inconspicuous part of the garden for two years. You need choose the plastic bags carefully since today most are very biodegradable. As a polymer chemist in a former life, I actually worked on fast-degrading plastic for a period. Whilst that's great for the environment, it's irritating when trying to reuse bags, but that's life !
Leaf mold is an excellent soil conditioner, and has a different structure and use to that of compost. After about two years, leaves have broken down to a dark brown/black mass with a crumbly texture and pleasant earthy smell. This doesn't provide much in the way of nutrition, but does increase water retention when added to soil. Leaf mold also improves soil structure and provides a favourable habitat for soil life such as earthworms and beneficial bacteria.
Leaf mold has several uses in the garden. You can dig it into garden beds to improve soil structure and water retention or use it as a mulch in perennial beds and vegetable gardens. It's also excellent in containers, thanks to its water retaining abilities.
This is a long-term project and you don't start to reap the reward until the third year. Thus best practice is to collect leaves every year, then after three years you'll have sacks full of precious material. You were going to tidy the garden by taking up the dead leaves anyway weren't you ?